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Full text of "Omni Magazine (October 1994)"


r ,, 

iTOBER 1994 

mi 1 





First Word 

By John Polkinghorne 





By Jane Bosveld 


The Roswell Declaration 

By A. J. S.Ray! 


Electronic Universe 

By Gregg Keizer 



By Anna Copeland 



By Jeffrey Heck 



By Victor Dricks 


Virtual Reality 

By Torn Dworetzky 



■ By Keith Harary 



By Steve Nadis 



By Doug Stewart 



By Linda Marsa 


Omni Online 

By Holly Siegelman 







BMHe^ajL.. .'-..* . 

For our sixteenth birthday, Omni explores the range of 

belief systems — be it science, religion, 

or otherworldly— that spring from the human mind as we 

seek to understand our world. 
Cover art by Steven Hunt. (Additional r;r; credirs, page 113) 



Science and Religion 

By Margaret Wertheim 



Margin of Error 

By Nancy Kress 


Mary Visions 

By Tracy Cochran 


Visions of Cosmopolis 

By Anthony Mansueto 

Does UFO 

fascination reflect our 

need for God? 


Fiction: The 

Fire that Scours 

By Edward Bryant 


Time is Nothing 

but a Clock 

By George Zebrowski 


The Other 

Side of the Bloch 

By Robert Bloch 

A great writer offers 

a surprising 

and memorable message. 



By Anthony Liversidge 





By Scot Morris 


Seeing the world through both eyes 

By John Polkinghorne 

I am a theoretical physicist and 
a clergyman. People some- 
times think that is a pretty odd 
combination, as if I had said I 
was a vegetarian and a butcher. 
Aren't science and religion at 
war with each other, and isn't sci- 
ence winning the battle? Which 
side am I really on? 

I do not think I have to choose 
sides, in fact, if I am really going 
to understand the very rich and 
varied world in which we live, I 
need the insights of both science 
and religion. Each is concerned 
with the search for truth, but they 
survey different aspects of our 
experience. It is not the case — 
as many suppose it is — that sci- 
ence deals with real knowledge 
of a world of reliable facts, whilst 
religion trades in individual opin- 
ion, which might be "true for me" 
but which cannot be just plain 
"true." In fact, such ideas are lit- 
erally mistaken. 

They are wrong about sci- 
ence because scientific facts are 
never plain, unvarnished obser- 
vations; to be interesting they 
must already be interpreted. That 
interpretation requires an inter- 
weaving of fact (experiment) and 
opinion (theory). That the Geiger 
counter clicks is -pretty uninter- 
esting; it only comes to life when 
we understand it to be the sign 
of a radioactive decay. 

Religion, conversely, is con- 
cerned with the search for moti- 
vated belief. Faith does not 
involve shutting one's eyes and 
believing impossible things be- 
cause some unquestionable au- 
thority tells one to do so. It is the 
quest for an understanding of 
human experience rooted in wor- 
ship, hope, and the history of ho- 
liness represented by the great 
religious figures of world history. 

I believe that science and reli- 
gion both are concerned with in- 
terpreted fact, with motivated 
opinion. They are intellectual 

cousins under the skin. Their dif- 
ference lies in the kinds of ques- 
tions they ask and the kinds of 
experiences they are prepared 
to consider. Science asks the 
question How?; religion asks the 
question Why? Both are impor- 
tant questions if we want to un- 
derstand all that is going on. 
"The kettle is boiling because 
burning gas heats the water." 
"The kettle is boiling because I 
want to make a cup of tea." I do 
not have to choose between 
these answers. Like science and 
religion, both are true. 

Science limits itself to treating 
the world as an object, an "it" 
which can be manipulated and 
put to the experimental test. Reli- 
gion is concerned with personal 
encounter with that reality which 
can only be treated as a "thou." 
In the realm of the personal, test- 
ing has to give way to trusting. 

Science by itself could never 
be enough. It is too limited. Ask a 
scientist to tell you all about 
music. Wearing his scientific hat, 
he will have to reply, "It is just vi- 
brations in the air." But we all 
know that there is much more 
to music than that. Science trawls 

experience with a coarse-grained 
net and there is much of the 
highest significance and impor- 
tance which slips through its 
wide meshes. 

In fact, there are some ques- 
tions which arise from science 
but which go beyond its narrow 
power to answer, which seem to 
many of us to point in a religious 
direction. Scientists are greatly 
struck by the wonderful rational 
beauty of the physical world as it 
becomes revealed to them 
through their investigations. The 
experience of wonder is a funda- 
mental reward for all the toil and 
labor involved in scientific re- 
search. Scientists are also 
greatly impressed by our human 
power to understand the physi- 
cal world. Why are our minds so 
formed that we can comprehend 
not only the world of everyday 
experience which we clearly 
have to understand if we are to 
survive, but also the strange un- 
picturable world of quantum me- 
chanics so totally different from 
what common sense would lead 
us to expect? You could say that 
fundamental physics discovers a 
world shot through with signs of 
mind. It is natural to interpret this 
as indeed an encounter with "the 
mind of God."' Science is possi- 
ble because the universe is a 
creation, and we are made in the 
image of the Creator. 

The history of the universe, 
which has turned an expanding 
ball of energy into the home of 
saints and scientists over the last 
15 billion years, suggests a pur- 
pose at work. An evolutionary uni- 
verse can be understood theo- 
logically as a universe allowed by 
its Creator to make itself, as it actu- 
alizes the astonishing potentiality 
with which it has been endowed. 

The goal for every scientist 
should be a thirst for understand- 
ing — a thirst which will never be 
quenched by science alone.DQ 

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Alien-Nation, another one for the birds, 

and milking the cow 

Looking for UFO Answers 

I was pleased to hear you started in- 
vestigating the alien presence and the 
government cover-ups [April 1994], 
The idea of asking the government for 
secret files and information is really ex- 
citing. This will not only open new fields 
of study, but will allow more universities 
and research institutions to have more 
access to such studies. I support your 
research and hope- that in future issues 
you can prove some of the questions 
that people have been asking about 
UFOs and their existence. Good luck. 
Jorge Torres, Jr. 
Miami, FL 

Brinning over with New Ideas 
David Brin's "Extraterrestrial Night- 
mares" [First Word, June 1994] unwit- 
tingly reveals the problem aliens must 
face in making official contact with a 
new wdrld. If they arrive when we are 
on the verge of either blowing ourselves 
up or putting international warfare be- 
hind us. it could deprive the human 
race of the chance to mature. Add that 
to the fact that our science would in- 
stantly become antique, and you have 
a prescription fc oad relations. If a race 
capable of interstellar travel wanted to 
enslave or destroy us, they could have 
done so long before now. Why wait to 
make contact, unless it is to minimize 
the disruption to Earth-dwellers? 

William L Schlosser 
Indianapolis, IN 

David Brin [First Word, June 1994] at- 
tempts to equate UFO phenomena, es- 
pecially abductions, to elves and other 
mythological wee folks stealing away 
people; however, Brin concludes his 
piece by shooting himself in the foot. 
He begs forgiveness for doubting so 
harshly, but says his faith lies in the 
more practical approach to proving ex- 
traterrestrial intelligence, He writes, 
", . . until then, I remain a big fan of 
the Air Force. Keep watching the skies, 
guys!" Doesn't Brin find it an ironic 
contradiction that some of the best 
sightings of UFOs have been reported 
by Air Force pilots? 

Philip Paul 

U.S. Air Force, Retired 

Hampton, VA 

Birds of a Feather 

As an amateur paleontologist, I found 
George Olshevsky's article [June 
1994] on which came first, the bird or 
the dinosaur, fascinating. While his the- 
ory is perfectly plausible and solves 
some of the questions created by the 
birds-are-dinosaur-descendants theo- 
ries, clearly much more study needs to 
be done on finds like Mesenosaurus 
and Cosesaurus. I guess we simply 
have to wait and see if new finds will 
support the birds-first theory. Keep up 
the great work. 

■Bill Barbour 

Greensboro, NC 


Cash Cow or Prestige Pig? 

Piers Bizony's article, "Politics of 

Apollo" [July 1994], was accurate, ex- 
cellent, and timely. As one of many de- 
voted NASA middle-management 
officials during, the Apollo years, I can 
make one minor correction. In dis- 
cussing funding for the program, Bi- 
zony states that "NASA looked like a fat 
cash cow begging to be milked." In 
sorr .ad not for 

cash but for prestige. On the incentive 
evaluation board, we graded contrac- 
tors based on their previous quarter's 
performance. After one contractor got 
its second low grade, its senior man- 
agement was called in and given the 
option of quietly surrendering the con- 
tract. The Apollo program meant so 
much in terms of prestige that these 
managers almost begged to be al- 
lowed to continue losing money rather 
than disappoint their shareholders by 
not being a part of Apollo. The "fat 
cash cow" was even bigger and fatter 
than we'd imagined. 

Charles D. Friedlander 
San Diego, CADd 

Got something to say but no time to 
write? Call (900) 285-5483. Your com- 
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in an upcoming issue of Omni. The cost 
for the call is 95 cents per minute. You 
must be age 18 or older. Touch-tone 
phones only. Sponsored by Pure Enter- 
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Suite 977, Beverly Hills, CA 90212. 



A synthesis of music, mathematics, and mysticism 

By Jane Bosveld 

It was an odd and spectacular 
event even for a crowd used 
to the visual and audio over- 
load of rock concerts by such 
luminaries as David Bowie, 
Michael Jackson, and the come- 
back tours of the Rolling Stones. 
The band, so to speak, was as 
strange as the Cathedral Dreams 
music and light show that played 
at the Cathedral Church of St. 
John the Divine in New York City 
on a cool October night. 

The brainchild of mathemati- 
cian and chaos guru Ralph 
Abraham, the concert blended 
computer images and music with 
improvised visual effects con- 

Using a super- 
Ralph Abraham 
the resonance 
of sight 
and of sound. 

trolled by human performers. 
Strange mazes appeared on a 
screen only to fade into pulsating 
geometric shapes. Fluid images 
reminiscent of stained-glass win- 
dows — one in the shape oi the 
cathedral itself — changed colors 
and dissolved. Using a specially 
designed computer called Ml Ml 
(Mathematically Illuminated Mu- 
sical Instrument), Abraham pro- 
grammed intricate mathematical 
formulas which were then trans- 
lated by a supercomputer into 
video images. In addition to 
Abraham, other performers for 
the event included Ami Radun- 
skaya, a professor of^mathemat- 

ics at Rice University in Houston, 
whose electronic cello accompa- 
nied the visual display, and Peter 
Broadwell, senior software, engi- 
neer at Silicon Graphics of 
Mountainview, California, who 
designed the concert software. 

The Cathedral Dreams, how- 
ever, was more than academic 
exercise in the interaction of 
technology and art. in many 
ways, it represented the culmina- 
tion of Abraham's lifelong desire 
to invest his work in mathemati- 
cal theory and his love, of music 
with a spiritual dimension. As a 
member of the Lindisfarne Asso- 
ciation, whose twentieth anniver- 
sary the concert commem- 
orated, Abraham and his col- 
leagues are dedicated to the se- 
rious investigation of the religious 
dimensions of science. Founded 
in 1972 by William Irwin Thomp- 
son, other members include mi- 
crobiologist Lynn Margulis, Gaia 
hypothesis originator James 
Lovelock, anthropologist Mary 
Catherine Bateson, poet Wendell 
Berry, architect Paolo Soleri, and 
the dean of St. John the Divine, 
James Parks Morton. 

For Abraham the renewal of 
religion is essential tor the 
growth of a vibrant "planetary 
culture." The old religions, he ex- 
plains, no longer work. "But we 
can prune those religions of 
whatever has inhibited their evo- 
lution over the centuries. We 
need a planetary religion, a revo- 
lution of religion where there 
would be a renewal of meaning 
in rites and rituals." 

Abraham's spiritual journey 
began in the 1960s during a 
walkabout that took him to India 
where he met a guru with whom 
he spent a week on a meditative 
retreat inside a cave that had 
been home to yogis for centuries. 
It was here that he first experi- 
enced "visual illuminations," tele- 
pathic communications and in- 

sights into what the Vedic religious 
tradition calls the vibration meta- 
phor. Throw a pebble in a pond, 
and the vibrations' ripple out in 
concentric circles; strike a bell, 
and it vibrates in waves of sound; 
meditate on a thought, and it 
echoes, according to Vedic teach- 
ings, through the realm of the 
collective unconscious, the eter- 
nal wellspring of thought. Abra- 
ham's training as a mathema- 
tician made him wonder if there 
were a mathematical basis for 
the vibration metaphor, if human 
thought could somehow be 
understood in the same way as 
ringing a bell. 

When Abraham returned to 
his professorship at the Univer- 
sity of California at Santa Cruz in 
1974, he began giving seminars 
on vibration theory, combining 
Vedic ideas with Western mathe- 
matics. To visually represent cer- 
tain principles of vibration, 
Abraham had his students build 
a macroscope — a device that 
amplifies sound and sends it 
through a liquid solution, causing 
it to vibrate in patterns which are 
then projected via lenses onto a 
screen. Abraham asked an In- 
dian singer he knew to sing 
through a microphone that was 
attached to the macroscope. 
"His singing produced beautiful 
patterns on the screen that were 
suggestive of the music itself," 
he explains. "It connected, all at 
once: my experience with Indian 
music, vibration theory, and 
mathematics. Math, music, mys- 
ticism—all are one." 

By the 1980s, video innova- 
tions enabled the use of digital 
equipment in Abraham's experi- 
ments with visual music. This work 
led him to design the MIMI and 
later to Cathedral Dreams and 
the hope that visual vibrations 
designed in mathematical formu- 
las can be tuned to the pulsating 
beat of human consciousness.00 



A call for accountability by the U.S. government 

By A. J. S. Rayl 


ould you like 
know if a fly. 


Is the U.S. gov- 
concealing vital 
movement needs 
your help 
to find out. 

crashed near Roswell 
Mexico, back in 1947, as 
many UFO buffs now con- 
tend? If the government 
has knowledge — or pos- 
session — of extraterrestri- 
als and/or their craft? You 
are not aione. 

A grassroots movement 
to find out is now underway, 
and you can become a 
part of it by signing a copy 
of the Roswell Declaration, 
a one-page petition calling 
for the administration to 
issue an executive order 
declassifying any govern- 
ment information regarding 
Roswell, UFOs, and extra- 
terrestrial intelligence. 

"This is about getting to 
the truth, setting the record 
straight once and for all 
about what the government 
knows," says declaration 
author and one of the organ- 
izers, Kent Jeffrey, an in- 
ternational airline pilot. 
Jeffrey and his fellow organ- 
izers plan to deliver a 
copy of the declaration and 
a list of signatories to all 
members of Congress and 
to the White House. 

The Roswell Declaration is 
not an endorsement of a 
position or belief, but a re- 
quest for a change in the law. 

"Knowledge about ex- 
traterrestrial intelligence is 
not a matter of national se- 
curity, but one to which all 
humankind should have an 
inalienable right," Jeffrey 
states. "The primary goal," 
he adds, "is to get the mat- 
ter into the open so that the 
truth can be determined 
One way or the other." Jef- 
frey hopes that all individu- 
als, no matter what their 

personal stand on ETs, will 
support that view. 

Various UFO organiza- 
tions throughout the world 
are doing just that by dis- 
seminating the declaration, 
which has also shown up 
on numerous computer bul- 
letin board services. While 
the main thrust of the 
Roswell initiative has been 
in the United States, it is 
gaining support interna- 
tionally, especially in Great 
Britain and Germany. 

If you would like to take 

part in this groundswell for 
government accountability, 
just sign the Declaration on 
the facing page, tear it out, 
and mail it to the following 
address: The Roswell Dec- 
laration, Omni Magazine, 
324 West Wendover Ave- 
nue, Suite 205, Greens- 
boro, North Carolina 27408. 
We will forward all of the 
signatures to the organiz- 
ers so your voice can be 
heard. All signed forms need 
to be returned to Omni by 
November 30.CXD 


Forty-seven years ago, an 
incident occurred in the 
southwestern desert of 
the United States that could have 
significant implications for all 
mankind. It involved the recovery 
by the U.S. military of material al- 
leged to be of extraterrestrial ori- 
gin. The event was announced by 
the U.S. military on Juiy 8, 1947, 
■ through a press release that was 
carried by newspapers through- 
out the country. It was subse- 
quently denied by what is now 
believed to be a cover story 
■claiming the material was nothing 
more than a weather balloon. It 
has remained veiled in govern- 
ment secrecy ever since. 

The press release announcing 
the unusual event was issued by 
the commander of the 509th 
Bomb Group at Roswell Army Air 
Field, Colonel William Blanchard, 
who later went on to become a 
four-star general and vice chief of 
staff of the United States Air 
Force. That the weather balloon 
story was a cover-up has been 
confirmed by individuals directly 
involved, including the late Gen- 
eral Thomas DuBose who took 
the telephone call from Washing- 
ton, DC, ordering the cover-up. 
Numerous other credible military 
and civilian witnesses have testi- 
fied that the original press re- 

lease was correct and the Ros- 
weil wreckage was of extraterres- 
trial origin. One such individua! 
was Major Jesse Marcel, the in- 
telligence officer of the 509th 
Bomb Group and one of the first 
military officers at the scene. 

On January 12, 1994, United 
States Congressman Steven 
Schiff of Albuquerque, New Mex- 
ico, announced to the press that 
he. had been stonewalled by the 
Defense Department when re- 
questing information regarding 
the 1947 Roswell event on behalf 
of constituents and witnesses. In- 
dicating that he was seeking fur- 
ther investigation into the matter, 
Congressman Schiff called the 
Defense Department's lack of re- 
sponse "astounding" and con- 
cluded it was apparently "another 
government cover-up." 

History has shown that unsub- 
stantiated official assurances or 
denials by government are often 
meaningless. There is a logical 
and straightforward, way to en- 
sure lhat the truth about Roswell 
will emerge: an Executive Order 
declassifying any information re- 
garding the existence of UFOs or 
extraterrestrial intelligence. Be- 
cause this Is a unique issue of 
universal concern, such an action 
would be appropriate and war- 
ranted. To provide positive assur- 

ance for all potential witnesses, it 
would need to be clearly stated 
and written into law. Such a mea- 
sure is essentially what presiden- 
tial candidate Jimmy Carter 
promised and then failed to de- 
liver to the American people 18 
years ago in 1976. 

If, as is officially claimed, no 
information on Roswell, UFOs, or 
extraterrestrial intelligence is 
being withheld, an Executive 
Order declassifying if would be a 
mere' formality, as there would be 
nothing to disclose. The order 
would, however, have the positive 
effect of setting the record 
straight once and for all. Years of 
controversy and suspicion would 
be ended, both in the eyes of the 
United States' own citizens and 
in the eyes of the world. 

If, on the other hand, the 
Roswell witnesses are telling the 
truth and information on extrater- 
restrial intelligence does exist, it 
is not something to which a privi- 
leged few in the United States 
government should have exclu- 
sive rights. It is knowledge of 
profound importance to which all. 
people throughout the world 
should have an inalienable right. 
Its release would unquestionably 
be universally acknowledged as 
an hrstorfc act of honesty and 

/ support the request, as outlined above, for an executive order declassifying any U.S. government information 
regarding the existence of UFOs or exzraterrestriai intelligence. Whether such information exists or whether it 
does not, I feel that the people of the world have a right to know the truth about this issue and that it is time to put 
an end to the controversy surrounding it. 

jSs"hftS.-'C'!L-d!jr'i!ir:i!s '!l ,";::pltol>;i 

US fi£p:i?se~:a:ve Mi kncw'ij 



The Internet sucks you in like a black hole 

By Gregg Keizer 


Log on to the 


and download the 

latest Hubble 

Space Telescope 

discoveries, or 

grab some more 


satellite images. 

1 1 all started so innocently. The 

Internet, the mother of all com- 
I puter networks and perhaps 
the embryonic information super- 
highway {an info alley?), was just 
too tempting. Twenty million peo- 
ple to talk to, links that leaped 
across the globe faster than I 
could say "," 
enough information to balloon 
my brain and my hard disk drives 
to the breaking point. What 
would it hurt, just to dip into that 
well and pull up a bucketful? Or 
maybe two? 

It hurt plenty at the beginning. 
Getting on the Internet is tough, 
unless you're lucky enough to 
have access already through 
your college, perhaps, or your 
job. The rest of us — I'm in that 
crowd somewhere — have to do 
the scut work ourselves. I played 
with America Online's Internet 
Center, but because it wouldn't 
yet let me download files, I felt 
like a second-rate citizen. So I 
went looking for an Internet ser- 
vice provider, a company that 
would get me a first-class con- 
nection in exchange for some 
cash. Veteran Jnternauts may 
look down on newbies like me for 
paying for something they get 
free, but I only wanted on. 

It got worse before it got 
better. I got connected after find- 
ing a provider that had a local 
access number for my modem to 
dial, but I needed an arsenal of 
software to get between me and 
the Internet's alien UNIX com- 
mands. (Using UNIX without a 
software crutch is a lot like 
wrestling on the farm: most of 
the time you're in deep muck.) I 
got Mosaic, a World Wide Web 
(WWW, W3, or just Web) browser 
for my Windows PC; I got a Go- 
pher client; I got a Usenet news- 
group reader; I even got an 
E-mail program. I was armed for 
digital bear. 

And I nailed a big one first 

time out. It was as if I had pulled 
my thumb from the dike. The 
rushing spill of space-science in- 
formation nearly drowned me. 

Like the W3 site at http://-, the 
Kennedy Space Center's W3 
server home page. This spot was 
chock-full of space stuff, and 
with Mosaic as my W3 browser, I 
could look at on-screen graph- 
ics, click my way through menus, 
and download files without a 
hitch. I blew most of a day read- 
ing shuttle mission overviews, 
downloading shuttle patch logos, 
scoping out future shuttle mis- 

sions, and reviewing the history 
of the space program. 

Then http://hypatia.gsfc- 
hit me. Another W3 locale, it's a 
general jumping-off place for all 
of NASA. I could search through 
what seemed to be every arm of 
NASA's research and develop- 
ment octopus, and vault from 
Maryland's Goddard Space Flight 
Center to California's Jet Propul- 
sion Laboratory in a flash. I killed 
more time digesting their infor- 
mational meals and spent hours 
downloading dessert: planetary 
and space images of all kinds. 
At the JPL W3 server, for in- 
stance, I found some incredible 
radar images of Earth taken by 

Endeavor only, five weeks before. 
I started to get impatient, for 
Mosaic took time to fill its screens 
with all those graphics. So I used 
a more direct approach to image 
libraries and connected with Go- 
pher. It only showed menus and 
lists of items to read or down- 
load — no pretty pictures — but I 
could still point and click to navi- 
gate my way from a computer in 
North Carolina to another in Nor- 
way. I pounced on the Space Tele- 
scope Electronic Information 
System's Gopher at gopher.gsfc- 
nasa.g/oi/ and dug up all kinds of 
details about the Hubble Space 
Telescope, including its weekly 
schedule and a slew of images. 
And with the Veronica search 
tool, I was able to find several 
pictures and even a few movie- 
like clips snapped by Clemen- 
tine, the cheapo probe that 
accidentally blew its fuel in May. 

Even that wasn't enough. I 
wanted news and views now. So 
I subscribed to a couple of the 
Internet's Usenet newsgroups, 
those bulletin board-style collec- 
tions of messages that stick to a 
specific subject. I started read- 
ing, which posts 
space-related news items like 
NASA's daily updates. Then I 
moved on to sci. space, a 
broader group where profession- 
als and laypeople discussed 
everything from Clementine's 
failure to where to find images of 
the partial eclipse just past. I felt 
plugged in, part of the in-crowd. 

But I couldn't leave. There 
was too much I hadn't seen, too 
many people I hadn't talked to or 
listened to. I was trapped, having 
skimmed only a paper-thin layer 
from the Internet's surface. 

I was in trouble. 

Next month; It gets even 
harder to walk away from the In- 
ternet when I find Star Trek stuff 
and people who say they've 
been abducted by UFOs.CQ 


Calculating the mind of God 

By Anna Copeland 


or invention: a 

look at 

same recent 


suggests that 

there Is 

a lot ot tire 


old debate. 

It's an old debate. On one side 
stands God, perfection, the 
ideal, the underlying pattern 
of the universe. On the other 
stands human ingenuity, the ma- 
terial world, and our own desire 
to understand by the invention of 
analytical tools. The arguments 
are familiar enough in literary or 
philosophical studies, where 
ideas, awash in language, spill 
and tumble with each other 
through the centu- 
ries. But this debate 
penetrates even the 
most sober abstract 
realm of representa- 
tion — the language 
of numbers. A look at 
some recent publica- 
tions in the history 
and theory of mathe- 
matics suggests that 
the old debate has 
plenty of fire left in it. 

In e: The Story of 
a Number, Eli Maor's 
conclusion of his his- 
tory of a number liv- 
ing in the shadows of 
the ever-popular n, 
frames the question 
nicely: "Think of it. Of 
the infinity of real 
numbers, those that 
are most important 
to mathematics . . . 
are located within 
less than four units of 
the number line. A 
remarkable coinci- 
dence? A mere detail in the Cre- 
ator's grand design? I let the 
reader decide." 

To help the reader, I recom- 
mend taking a look at a couple of 
recent titles: John Barrow's Pi in 
the Sky: Counting, Thinking, and 
Being (Oxford University Press, 
1992) and John McLeish's Num- 
ber: The History of Numbers and 
How They Shape Our Lives 
(Fawcett Columbine, 1991). 

Barrow, a British astronomer, 

engages the reader in an explo- 
ration into the nature of mathe- 
matics with an impressive array of 
factual and anecdotal evidence 
that spans centuries and cultures. 
A glance at the plethora of epi- 
grams — including quotes from 
personal ads, Spiro Agnew, Em- 
berto Eco, and Muslim sayings — 
is evidence for Barrow's premise 
that mathematics indeed reflects 
an underlying, cosmic, and con- 
nective design. 

Under the banner 
of Platonic Ideality, 
he crusades for a vi- 
sion of mathematical 
harmony "that is it- 
self ultimately reli- 
gious." Math, like 
God, is an abstract 
system that offers 
the possibility of 
completeness— In 
spite of Godel's the- 
orem. Our inability to 
stand outside the 
system in order to 
comprehend the to- 
tality of it in no way 
negates the pres- 
ence of a timeless 
paradigm — a par- 
adise of pure form 
and function. In fact, 
our inability to stand 
outside the system is 
evidence that we did 
not create it, In the 
end, Barrows argues 
that mathematical 
affirm that "curability 
to create and apprehend mathe- 
matical structures in the world is 
merely a consequence of our 
own oneness with the world." 

John McLeish, an educational 
psychologist, has a more down- 
to-earth approach toward the 
history and meaning of mathe- 
matics. Just as Barrow struc- 
tures his inquiry to reflect the 
cosmic dimensions of mathemat- 
ics, McLeish structures his work- 


around his central concei 
connecting mathematics to hu- 
man experience. His investiga- 
tion is organized chronologically 
and concentrates on cultures less 
frequently associated with math- 
ematical discoveries, such as 
the ancient Sumerian and Baby- 
lonian cultures or the Incas of 
Peru. Sifting through the records 
of archaeology and anthropology, 
rather than the more abstract 
works of philosophy that Barrows 
favors, McLeish begins with a 
straightforward premise. "In con- 
fronting and solving a few key 
problems," he tells us, "human 
beings employ 'tools' to discover 
and understand reality better," 

Clearly for McLeish, mathe- 
matics is an invention, something 
created by the human mind. 
Though many different cultures 
may variously come to the same 
conclusion independent of each 
other; this does not indicate that 
there must be a transcendent 
ideal, but rather that "numbers 
and number problems are sub- 
ject to the laws of step-by-step 
logic." Thus mathematics discov- 
eries are essentially human in- 
vention based in the primary 
urge "to develop member skills 
as efficient practical tools." 
McLeish sharply criticizes those 
who study numbers "in the ser- 
vice of convoluted and inept no- 
tions ... of how the universe 
had been formed and of the su- 
pernatural conditions necessary 
for its continuance." 

Although Barrow and McLeish 
would be hard-pressed to find 
a compromise between their re- 
spective positions, they would, 
however, agree that the future of 
mathematics, like its past, 
promises to be full of adventure, 
debate, discovery, and invention. 
They would also agree that num- 
bers add up to a whole lot more 
than abstract calculations if we 
look at them in the right way.DQ 


Intriguing artifacts raise questions about North America's history 

By Jeffrey Heck 


Mysterious arti- 
facts or a 
clavBr hoax? 
remain divided 
on the 
origins of the 
(above) and the 
Stone (right) 
found over 
100 years ago 
in Native 
American earth- 

In Newark, Ohio, in 1860, 
county surveyor David Wyrick, 
an amateur archaeologist, un- 
earthed two artifacts that rank 
among the strangest ever found 
in the United States: two finely 
made stone tablets carrying reli- 
gious inscriptions in Hebrew. 
Who made the tablets? Are they 
hoaxes or genuine religious 
relics? More than 130 years after 
their discovery, the Newark Holy 
Stones, as they've come to be 
known, continue to puzzle scien- 
tists and historians. 

Wyrick found the stones while 
excavating some of the huge 
earthen mounds that dot the 
American Midwest. Most histori- 
ans today believe the earthworks 
to be the products of pre- 
Columbian native civilizations. 
Investigators in previous cen- 
turies, however, held different no- 
tions. A common opinion during 
Wyrick's time was that the mound- 
builders were the Ten Lost Tribes 
of Israel, who vanished after 
being captured by the Assyrians. 

A supporter of this theory, 
Wyrick came across the Key- 
stone, the first of the Holy 
Stones, in June of 1860 while 
digging near Newark's 50-acre 
Octagon Mound. A wedge- 
shaped piece of sandstone, the 
Keystone is inscribed on all four 
sides with Hebrew that reads, 
'The Laws of Jehovah, The Word 
of the Lord, King of the Earth, 
The Holy of Holies." Wyrick, natu- 
rally, considered this proof of the 
Ten Lost Tribes theory. 

The discovery made head- 
lines as far away as New York 
City, but shortly after, the Key- 
stone was denounced as a fake: 
A Hebrew scholar in Cincinnati 
proclaimed that the Hebrew was 
too modern for the stone to be 
authentic. Determined to redeem 
himself and his theories, Wyrick 
and a small excavation party dis- ■ 
covered in November 1860 a 

stone box in which lay the piece 
of black alabaster now known as 
the Decalogue Stone. On the 
front of the stone is a priestly fig- 
ure, and above it, etched in a 
style of Hebrew found nowhere 
else before or since, is the name 
of Moses. A condensed version 
of the Ten Commandments is in- 
scribed in this unique Hebrew on 
every surface of the stone. 

"A lot of thought went into the 
production of this stone," says J. 
Huston McCulloch, a professor 
of economics at Ohio State Uni- 
versity who became so intrigued 
by the stones that he learned the 
Hebrew alphabet to study them 
better. "The letters are evenly 
spaced, not crammed to make it 
all fit. You end the reading of the 
Commandments at the exact 
point that you began." 

"When I look at the stones, 
two things strike me," says 
Robert Alrutz, now retired from 
Denison University, who, like Mc- 
Culloch, believes the stones to 

be genuine. "One, the stones dif- 
fer in the type of writing. One's 
more stylized than the other, a 
sort of longhand. But more im- 
portantly, the box in which the 
Decalogue Stone was found 
contains holes for no apparent 
reason, as if you were going to 
stand something up in them — 
slots as if the two lids were held 
together by something. Who, if 
he's going to fake, something, 
would go to all of this trouble?" 

The Holy Stones, however, fail 
every possible archaeological 
test, argues Stephen Williams in 
his 1991 book, Fantastic Archae- 
ology. Their inscriptions are the 
only ones of their kind known, 
and the forms are not epigraphi- 
cally correct for the time period. 
If they are genuine Hebrew texts, 
he asks, why are they not asso- 
ciated with other artifacts of 
Palestine at the time of Christ? 

Brad Lepper, archaeologist 
and current curator of the 
Newark Earthworks, also has 
problems with theories claiming 
that the stones were produced 
by the ancient Hebrew culture. 
"If ancient Hebrews were pres- 
ent in the Americas, then we 
should find evidence of their set- 
tlements: towns, villages, trading 
camps, and so on," Lepper says. 
"No modern archaeological re- 
search project in the Americas 
has yet located an ancient He- 
brew settlement." 

Who, then, made the Holy 
Stones? Lepper believes that the 
Rev. John W. McCarty, who 
translated for Wyrick the text on 
the Keystone overnight, led the 
effort to craft the stones. 

Today, visitors can view the 
Holy Stones at the Johnson- 
Humrickhouse Museum in Cosh- 
octon, Ohio. Do more artifacts 
like them lie hidden within the 
Newark earthworks? Possibly — 
the mounds have yet to be sys- 
:ema\ eally oxc rivaled. DO 


The Vatican's astronomers combine cosmology and theology 

By Victor Dricks 

The Vatican's new 
Technology Tele- 
scope on 
Mount Graham in 
Arizona will 
allow the Church's 
to peer even fur- 
ther into the 
mysteries of the 

J^\top a 10,436-foot peak 
#^^kon Mount Graham in 
» m southeastern Arizona, 
red squirrels, officially an endan- 
gered species, scamper across 
a clearing the San Carlos 
Apache tribe considers sacred. 
Surrounded by dense vegeta- 
tion, the Vatican's new $3 million 
telescope stands like a monu- 
ment to man's timeless fascina- 
tion with the heavens. Like the 
Native Americans before them, a 
handful of Jesuit priests have 
come to Mount Graham to pon- 
der the mysteries ot creation. 

The Vatican doesn't acknowl- 
edge the Apaches' claim to a 
unique usage of the mountain. 
"But we're very aware of the his- 
torical and ecological signifi- 
cance of this site," says the 
Reverend Chris Corbally, one of 
six Vatican astronomers using 
the telescope. "Our observatory 
is built on land occupied by an 
endangered species, and our 
mission is a demonstration of the 
possibility of peaceful coexist- 
ence between religion, nature, 
and science." 

For more than four hundred 
years, astronomers at the Vatican 
have scanned the heavens from 
Rome. The work of early Jesuit 
astronomers provided Pope Greg- 
ory XIII with the data he needed 
to replace the Julian calendar 
with the Gregorian. But glare 
from city lights has rendered 
stargazing increasingly difficult 
in Rome, Since 1981, the Vatican 
Observatory has relied on its 
Tucson research base to keep 
abreast of cosmological devel- 
opments that could have theo- 
logical implications, including 
theories about the creation, evo- 
lution, and fate of the universe- 
topics that Pope John Paul II has 
taken a keen interest in, "Our job 
is to serve as scientific advisers 
to the pope and help the Vatican 
maintain an open dialogue with 

the scientific community," says 

Martin McCarthy, a Jesuit as- 
tronomer for 36 years. 

To do this, generous donors 
have furnished the Vatican's as- 
tronomers with a remarkable new 
instrument. At 1,8 meters in di- 
ameter, the main mirror of the 
Vatican's Advanced Technology 
Telescope, constructed by the 
University of Arizona, is of mod- 
erate size but boasts the most 
exact surface of any mirror ever 
cast for ground-based astron- 
omy, Capable of providing ex- 
tremely sharp, detailed images 
of celestial objects, the new tele- 
scope also allows the Vatican as- 
tronomers to make observations 
at regular intervals over a long 
period of time, usually a difficult 
task because astronomers gain 
access to premier instruments 
for only a week or two each year. 

The astronomers have al- 
ready put their new telescope to 
good use. Corbally, for example, 
is studying a small group of stars 
that appear to be old, although 
they reside in a part of the sky 
where young stars abound. The 
Vatican Observatory director, the 
Reverend George Coyne, uses 
the telescope to peek into star- 
forming regions in the constella- 

tion of Cassiopeia. The Reverend 
Richard Boyle is working with 
colleagues in Lithuania and Rome 
to study a population of stars in 
our own Milky Way galaxy, using 
a technique called photometry, 
which measures the intensity of 
light. In addition, the Vatican per- 
mits outside astronomers to use 
the observatory. 

"The Vatican astronomers do 
first-rate work," says Arizona 
State University astronomer 
Peter Wehinger. "They are very 
fortunate because they are sup- 
ported by a well-funded organi- 
zation that appreciates the quest 
for astronomical knowledge." 

Vatican astronomers bring to 
their work formal religious train- 
ing coupled with advanced de- 
grees in' astronomy, and by all 
accounts, they've earned con- 
siderable respect from their 
peers. In fact, Corbally jokes, the 
Jesuits spend so much time 
peering through their telescope 
and attending scientific confer- 
ences that they find it easier to 
communicate with other as- 
tronomers than with their broth- 
ers in Rome, who complain that 
their reports can be hard to un- 
derstand. They operate, Corbally 
says, in the same tradition as the 
German astronomer Johannes 
Kepler, who had strong mystical 
leanings, and Sir Isaac Newton, 
who viewed science as a means 
of interpreting God's handiwork. 

"Always, the great minds in 
science have had this spiritual 
dimension," Corbally says. "And 
this Is something the Church en- 
courages," Once a symbol of 
dogmatic opposition to scientific 
ideas that clashed with theology, 
in recent years the Church has 
sponsored world-class confer- 
ences on topics long considered 
taboo, such as cosmology and 
human evolution, indicating that 
the Church has itself evolved 
over the years .DO 



Confessions of a cyberjunkie: four hours a day, full baud 

By Tom Dworetzky 

Captain Waldo's E-mail 
was ever stranger. So I 
called him right back on 
the net. "You sound kinda strung 
out," I said. 

"A little problem," he clicked 
back into the private room off the 
lobby of the law forum. "Can't 
talk here. Jump to the Eighteenth 
Street BBS, encrypt, and I'll get 
you there." 

The BBS was a local, unlisted, 
lowlife bulletin board where 
snitches — dealers in info junk 
and hot telecredits — would log 
on looking for a meet. It wasn't a 
place to use a real handle. I 
started up the encryptor. Waldo 
and I had exchanged the key, 
Crocodile, some time ago. Once 
I snapped that into the encryptor, 
and he did the same, we could 
talk pretty freely. That's why it 
was illegal. 

"I gotta see you in person," he 
typed in. 

Waldo wasn't the first cop- 
friend-source I'd heard sounding 
strange while covering the city- 
net for the Daily Surge, the online 
news source I work for. Some- 
times odd things happen to VR- 
cops: They get caught up in their 
work, then hooked on the life. I'd 
run into them on the net late at 
night, and they'd tell me things. 
But it hit me like a brick when 
Waldo asked me to meet him at 
the Inn of Five Happinesses Chi- 
nese restaurant. Today, most in- 
teracting is on the net. An actual 
face-to-face is only for big 
deals — and big trouble. 

The restaurant was dark, but 
when I finally got to. the corner 
booth, I realized Waldo looked 
so bad I would've barely recog- 
nized him anyway. 

"You've been using old im- 
ages on the wire," I said. 

"Had to, Look at me. I'm 
hooked," he blurted out. "The 
net's getting me. Sometimes a 
week passes and I don't know 

what time it is, riding through the 
games, checking out the differ- 
ent points of view. I've tried 
everything to quit: cold — that 
lasted half a day — timers, 
alarms, automatic disconnects. I 
even time-locked my computer, 
then found a work-around. 
Hours, days, nothing else mat- 
ters— not food, real people, noth- 
ing. I only live in nettime where 
thoughts make the world change 
at light speed — well, the maxi- 
mum baud rate anyway. 

"I'm iike one of those lab rats 
whacking the lever for more 
drugs until it dies," he laughed 
dryly. "It's really bad. I'm just a 
junkie, but I'm gonna break away 
this time. Tomorrow I'll be clean. 
I've got to quit. Can't pay for on- 
time anymore. Got no money for 

"How'd it get to you?" 1 asked 
as supportively as I could. 

"Working those virtual crime 
scenarios. I was in them all the 
time, checking out this or that, 
fixing bugs, monitoring to see 
that the bad guys were too busy 
on the crime server games to 

"Couldn't you just leave ii on 

"For awhile, but then the 

clever scuzz waxed the games 
and got free. They started trans- 
ferring from the crime server to 
the net itself; stealing credits, 
running scams, pretending to be 
people they weren't. Anarchists. 
The only way to keep up with 
them was to play their games." 

"Waldo." I said finally, "You're 
my friend, but junkies lie. If I shift 
credits, you'll just burn 'em up on 
the wires." 

He hesitated, deflated; looked 
away, then back. "Screwed up, I 
did. My own damned fault." 
Waldo was starting to slobber. 

"I'll buy you dinner," I said. I 
got the waiter, ordered, and gave 
htm the money for Waldo's meal. 

"Eai this, try to stay straight 
for'a few days, then call me." I 
got up. Waldo would have to 
face the singularity of his own 
off-line experience without me. 

At the door I glanced back. 
Alone in a corner, Waldo carefully 
took the hand-held netman out of 
his shirt pocket, slipped on the 
glasses, and adjusted the wrist- 
strap guider. 

"Don't, Waldo, stay with me a 
while," he said to no one in par- 
ticular. "Sorry Can't right now." 

Leaning back into the corner 
of the booth and sliding down 
until his head rested on the ban- 
quette, Waldo faded into nettime. 
No one would bother him, and he 
would bother no one. It would be 
just like he wasn't there.DQ 

Got something to say but no 
time to write? Call (900) 285- 
5483. Your comments will be 
recorded and may appear in 
an upcoming issue of Omni. 
The cost for the call is 95 
cents per minute. You must 
be age 18 or older. Touch- 
tone phones only. Sponsored 
by Pure Entertainment, 505 
South Beverly Drive, Suite 
977, Beverly Hills, CA 90212. 

He tried every- 
thing to 
quit— timers, 

automatic discon- 
nects — fiul 
he was hooked. 
Ha was a 
nettime junkie. 



Don't be a blockhead, lift your feet to the Gumby beat 

By Keith Harary 

Still flexible after 
more than 40 

years, Gumby and 
the gang take 

lo the bin screen. 

□ n a precarious catwalk 
deep inside a starship, 
our soft green hero bat- 
tles his evil clone in an iconic- 
light sword duel to the death. Art 
Clokey's irrepressible animated 
clay creation from the Fifties, 
Gumby, is standing his ground in 
his biggest adventure yet, 
Gumby 1, and brings the aes- 
thetics of flexibility to a head for 
a postmodern world. 

Gumby innocently avoids the 
more vulgar ruminations of such 
animated fare as Beavis and 
Butt-head or Ren and Stimpy, 
and there is something more 
compelling about his adventures 
than the routine martial arts vio- 
lence of Teenage Mutant Ninja 
Turtles or the endless-loop plot- 
lines of Wile E. Coyote's futile 
campaign to capture 
the Roadrunner. If Sat- 
urday morning is popu- 
lated by two-dimen- 
sional characters con- 
demned to repeat the 
predictable patterns laid 
n ink by their cre- 
ators, then Gumby and his 
pals are from a different 
time and place and made 
. of more creative stuff. 

"The world according 
I to Gumby," says 

Clokey, "is an infi- 
nite playground." For Clokey, 
Gumby is the unaffected 
creative potential in all chil- 
dren, and the heroic child 
in every adult. "The hid- 
den message," he says, 
"is that appreciating 
fantasy can provide 
deeper insights into 
how we experience.: 
reality beyond the 
perceptions of 

Nevertheless, there is nothing 
overtly philosophical about the 
adventures of Gumby and his 
friends. For them, the universe is 
nothing less than a lucid dream 
composed entirely of thoughts, 
and magic is to be expected. 
Long before the T-1000 of Termi- 
nator 2 showed off his million- 
dollar special effects, Gumby 
turned shape-shifting 'into an art 
of self-expression. Squash Gum- 
by flat and he pops back into 
shape unharmed. Trap him in a 
gumball machine, and he turns 
himself into a dozen green gum- 
balls to be let out and reassem- 
bled when Pokey buys gum. The 
secret of Gumby's art resides in 
his ingenuity and flexibility and 
his ability to respond effectively 
to any situation without losing his 
aesthetic sensibility. 

..The origins of Gumby are a 
synthesis of thoughts and im- 
ages from Art Clokey's life. As a 
child, Clokey marveled at a 
photo' of his father sporting an 
enormous cowlick — he believed 
it was a solid bump. This bump, 
also associated with wisdom by 
Buddhists, later inspired the an- 
gular shape of Gumby's head. 

Zen Buddhist philosopher 
Alan Watts once told the Clokeys 
that people could be character- 

ized as either "Prickly" or 
"Gooey" in their essential nature, 
inspiring two of Gumby's closest 
pals: a rigidly analytical dinosaur 
named Prickle, and an emotion- 
ally free-wheeling, flying mer- 
maid named Goo. Professor 
Kapp, another Gumby regular, is 
based upon a real-life professor 
who wore his Phi Beta Kappa 
key wherever he went. A fluffy 
white mastodon named Denali, 
meanwhile, takes his name from 
the Eskimo word for "Great One," 
in reference to Mt. McKinley, 
which the Clokeys visited on a 
journey through Alaska. 

Most of the more than 200 
Gumby episodes are written by 
Art or Gloria Clokey, mainly 
based on stories told to their chil- 
dren. All are produced and di- 
rected by the Clokeys and filmed 
in painstaking, frame-by-frame, 
trimentional-animation — a 
process Art Clokey was the first 
to apply to mass media enter- 
tainment — which has since be- 
come a standard in the special- 
effects arena." 

Gumby's first feature film, 
Gumby 1, produced on a budget 
of $2.8 million, is scheduled for 
national distribution this October 
by Arrow Releasing. Gumby and 
his friends now work at comput- 
ers, and create their own music 
video — Take Me Away— com- 
plete with lyrics by Gloria Clokey. 
Gumby 2 is also in the works, 
with plans to have Gumby enter- 
ing psychotherapy and getting 
involved in politics. And the first 
Gumby children's book, Gumby 
Goes to the Sun, is also in devel- 
opment, with an original story 
and illustrations by Holly Har- 
man, the Clokeys' daughter. 

Given the more rigid con- 
straints of the mundane world, 
perhaps an occasional Gumby 
high is just the right thing to re- 
mind ourselves that reality, ac- 
cording to Gumby, is flexible.OQ 



Neural nets predict the traffic future 

By Steve Nadis 

Most city traffic 

lights keep 

a rigid schedule. 

oblivious to 

congestion; smart 

- systems 

will use neural 

networks to 

predict gridlock 

and help 

head it off. 

The Atlanta Falcons' 
game at the Georgia 
Dome winds down at 
the same time the Hawks wrap 
up their match at the Omni, just 
a few blocks away. More than 
4,000 cars pour onto area 
streets, yet traffic dissipates 
within 10 minutes. It's nothing 
short of a miracle. Unfortunately, 
it's all taking place in a computer 
simulation at the Georgia Tech 
Research Institute, where a new 
program called TERMINUS is 
showing its stuff. 

TERMINUS is the first traffic 
control system to use neural net- 
works, parallel computers that 
mimic the basic structure of the 
human brain. The. program was 
adapted from software originally 
designed to help missiles or 
tanks find their targets, "this is 
the kind of [military-to-civilian] 
conversion President Clinton is 
talking about," says project di- 
rector John Gilrnore. 

TERMINUS includes two 
neural networks — one thai ana- 
lyzes traffic data to see where 
bottlenecks might occur, another 
thai sets stoplights on streets 
and highway ramps to optimize 
vehicle flow. "Our system is de- 
signed to find a solution that 
works for the whole city, not just 
a few intersections," Gilrnore 
says. "It looks at actual traffic 
conditions and instantly adapts." 

TERMINUS is trained to rec- 
ognize the symptoms that lead 
to gridlock and then to try to 
head it off in advance. This is 
possible owing to a special fea- 
ture of neural nets: their ability to 
learn. By exposing the network 
to enough traffic scenarios, it 
comes to identify the telltale 
signs that precede congestion. 

Here's now ii works: The com- 
puter is comprised of electronic 
units, neurons, which switch on 
or off depending on the inputs " 
they receive from other neurons. 

Each input, in turn, represents the 
number of cars on a given stretch 
of road. The inputs to an individ- 
ual neuron are multiplied by a 
number called a "weight" and 
added together. If the sum ex- 
ceeds a threshold value, the neu- 
ron is activated and sends a pulse 
to its neighbors. "When certain 
combinations of neurons light up, 
that means [here's congestion," 
Gilrnore says. "The weights are ad- 
justed after each new tesl case, 
as the network learns which in- 
puts are the most important con- 
tributors to clogged roadways." 

The ultimate test case for 
TERMINUS would be the 1996 
Atlanta Olympic Games, which 
Gilrnore calls the "biggest traffic 
challenge of the 1990s." Before 
the Games begin, the city hopes 
to have in place the most ad- 
vanced traffic-management sys- 

tem in the United States. The 
project will rely on a powerful 
computer network to integrate 
control of traffic on highways and 
surface streets En five counties 
and the city of Atlanta. 

TRW, the aerospace firm over- 
seeing the project, will install an 
integrated network design that 
will allow various state, couniy, 
and local agencies that currently 
have limited communication ca- 
pabilities to exchange traffic in- 
formation so that a coordinated 
response can be made. To keep 
from becoming obsolete, the 
system will have "open architec- 
ture," which will enable new soft- 
ware of "intelligent" vehicle and 
highway technologies to be "in- 
stalled as they become avail- 
able. TERMINUS is among the 
software packages under con- 
sideration, but it is by no means 
a sure bet for the job. 

While waiting to check out 
TERMINUS on real life city 
streets, Gilrnore is striving to 
make the simulations as realistic 
as possible. He wonders, for in- 
stance, how new-car technology 
or human behavior might affect 
the equation. Drivers of "smart 
cars" have to be modeled differ- 
ently, because their electronic 
navigation systems will give 
them traffic information others 
don't have, Gilrnore says. "Your 
model also has to account for 
dumb drivers who will go ahead, 
no matter what you tell them." 

Ultimately, he adds, "you'd 
like to know everyone's destina- 
tion." All that information could 
be plugged into a giant, central 
computer like the one TRW is as- 
sembling. Drivers would be ad- 
vised of the best possible routes, 
and traffic lights for the entire re- 
gion would be adjusted to keep 
things flowing smoothly. At that 
point, Big Brother will not only be 
watching where we go, he'll be 
helping us to get there. DO 



Some researchers campaign no? to be nominated 

By Doug Stewart 

Two past winners 
of the rg 

Nobel Prize for 


H-bomb developer 


Teller (at right) 

and former 

LA police chief 

Daryl Gales. 

Scientists! Has the Nobel 
Prize committee unfairly 
overlooked your body of 
work? Take heart! You may have 
already been selected to win an 
even rarer award: the Ig Nobel 
Prize, granted to those few 
whose achievements, in the 
words of the committee, "cannot 
or should not be reproduced." 

Named after Alfred 

Nobel's distant cousin 
Ignatius, the Ig Nobel 
Prize is co-sponsored 
by the MIT Museum 
and an irreverent sci- 
entific journa!, the An- 
nals of Improbable 

The Ig Nobel com- 
mittee bestows prizes— 
this year on October 6 
at MIT — across the full 
spectrum of scientific endeavor. 
The physics prize last year went 
to a Frenchman who, after 
painstaking research, concluded 
that the buildup of calcium in 
chickens' eggshells could only 
be the product of — voila — cold 
fusion. A retired engineer in 
South Carolina copped a mathe- 
matics prize for his calculation of 
the odds that Mikhail Gorbachev 
is really the Antichrist as 
8,606,091,751,882 to 1. An- 
nouncing the award, the commit- 
tee helpfully posted its own 
calculations of comparable 
odds: Mother Theresa at infinity 
to one; Nelson Mandela, 40,000 
to 1; software tycoon Bill Gates, 
8 to 5. The most recent Ig Nobel 
Prize in literature went to the 976 
co-authors of a paper in the New 
England Journal of Medicine. Ac- 
tually, 976 was a guess; "Nobody 
had the patience to count them 
all," says Marc Abrahams, the 
event's mastermind and emcee. 
Journal executive editor Marcia 
Angeil gamely accepted on be- 
half of the authors who, she noted, 
"could not agree on the wording 

of an acceptance speech." 

The ceremony takes place 
each October before a raucous 
crowd of more than 1,000, in- 
cluding a smattering of would-be 
honorees. The on-stage VIPs in- 
clude a panel of oddly dressed 
dignitaries, among them a num- 
ber of genuine Nobel laureates, 
as well as a torch-bearer, a harp- 
_ ist, and an umpire. 
The Ig Nobel Prizes 
aren't intended to 
ridicule, says Abra- 
hams, who edits An- 
nals when not orches- 
trating the ceremonies 
in top hat and tails. To 
make sure a prize 

\~^^S won't jeopardize a 
| bona fide researcher's 
career prospects, 
Abrahams occasion- 
ally sounds out prospective win- 
ners in advance. "We have 
people actively campaign no! to 
receive an Ig," he says, though 
he won't name names. 

Jay Schiffman, 3 Michigan 
electrical engineer, is one Ig 
Nobe! winner who didn't feel the 
honor was worth a trip to Cam- 
bridge. Schiffman is the inventor 
of AirtoVision, a hookup that lets 
people drive a car and watch TV 
at the same time. The committee 
deemed this worthy of a special 
award for visionary technology. 
Schiffman responded: "Those 
MIT kids are still wet behind the 
ears. This isn't like cold fusion — I 
can demonstrate it. Even with a 
pornographic videotape, you 
can drive in traffic, no problem." 

Others can't wait to come to 
Cambridge to deliver accept- 
ance speeches. Among them, 
three urologists responsible for a 
detailed research report; 
"Acute Management of 
Zipper-Entrapped : 
Penis," that appeared ' 
in the Journal of Emer- 
gency Medicine. Two 

years ago, Kraft-General Foods 
dispatched 20 employees in a 
corporate jet to pick up the 
chemistry prize for its invention 
of blue Jell-O; all wore bright 
blue lab coats. Evincing an ad- 
mirable sense of humor, Pulitzer 
Prize-winning psychiatrist John 
Mack, honored by the Ig Nobel 
committee for his controversial 
research into UFO abductions, is 
rumored to be considering a sur- 
prise address to this year's con- 
vocation (an honor extended to 
all past laureates). Perennial fa- 
vorite Martin Fleischmann of 
cold-fusion fame is said to be 
willing to attend, even offering to 
give a keynote address. 

The committee relies on An- 
nals readers for nominations, 
wnich'flow in from around the 
world. Many people nominate 
bosses or spouses. More than a 
few, says Abrahams, nominate 
themselves. "But their letters tend 
to have misspellings, so they're 
immediately disqualified. "DO 

Know a scientist whose work 
is of Ig Nobel caliber? Send 
name, affiliation, and a brief ex- 
planation of why he or she is de- 
serving (25 words or less) along 
with documentation to the 
Ig Nobel Prize Commit- 
tee, c/o MIT Museum, j^m 
256 Massachusetts $EUL 
Ave., Cambridge, 
MA 02139. Fax j 
E-mail address: { 
Don't worry; 
Your name will 
be held in 
strictest confi- 



The case of magnetic fingerprint's 

By Linda Marsa 

It was a scene right out of a 
James Bond thriller. After 
Ronald Indeck lectured a 
group of Washington. DC secu- 
rity professionals on noise clutter 
on recorded data, an FBI agent 
sidled up to him. If the mouth- 
piece for some gangster alters 
incriminating wiretaps, the agent 
asked, is there a way of knowing 
if the defendant tampered with 
or replaced the tapes? "These 
guys have seen too many spy 
movies," Indeck thought at the 
time. After all, the electrical engi- 
neer's research involved figuring 
out how to clean up data clutter, 
not fingering wise guys. But that 
seemingly irrelevant question 
percolated in the back of Indeck's 
mind and ultimately sparked the 
invention of a technique that may 
transform the way electronic in- 
formation is safeguarded and 

The technique entails using a 
simple device that identifies the 
unique fingerprints of objects 
containing magnetic recorded 
, ranging from charge 
cards, computer disks, 
and old Beatles tapes to 
security entry cards, 
electronic passkeys into 
computer networks, and 
even wiretaps. 

Magnetic fingerprint- 
/' ing could virtually elimi- 
nate credit card fraud and 
counterfeiting (which costs 
consumers, merchants, and 
banks more than $1 billion a 

year), eradicate industrial espi- 
onage, detect bootlegged mag- 
netic recordings, and make it 
impossible for even the most 
nimble electronic outlaw to pilfer 
information and penetrate pro- 
tected networks. 

Indeck, who's on the engi- 
neering faculty at Washington 
University in St, Louis, was trying 
to understand what causes 
media noise on recordings. This 
magnetic signal clutter uses up 
space and limits recording den- 
sity and fidelity. 

Miniaturization is the touch- 
stone of the information revolu- 
tion, so Indeck wanted to find a 
way to eliminate or circumvent 
this noise so more data could be 
squeezed into the same space. 

He knew that information is 
magnetically stored on tapes, 
credit cards, computer disks — or 
whatever storage medium you 
choose to use — by depositing 
billions of tiny, magnetized grains 
on the medium's surface. These 
grains are so small, says Indeck, 
"the thickness of a hair might 
have one hundred million parti- 
cles." When he peered through 
an electron microscope, which 
has five hundred times the mag- 
nification power of ordinary mi- 
croscopes, Indeck noticed some- 
thing quite peculiar: During the 
recording process, these micro- 
scopic grains are scattered in a 
random pattern that creates a 
signature that is as unique as the 
skin ridges and whorls of a 
human fingerprint. 

This signature — or finger- 
print — is permanently embedded 
in the structure of the recording 
medium and because it is so tiny, 
like the weave of fibers in a piece 
of paper, it cannot be altered or 
copied. "It would take thousands 
of years to fabricate a successful 
forgery," says Indeck. "Nobody 
can sit there with tweezers a 
couple hundred angstroms 

wide"— one angstrom is one ten- 
billionth of a yard — "and put par- 
ticles down one by one in exactly 
the same way," 

Indeck didn't understand the 
significance of this discovery 
until that fateful meeting in Wash- 
ington. Since the physical mi- 
crostructure can be read by a 
conventional recording head, 
this magnetic fingerprint is easy 
to identify with virtually no possi- 
bility .of mistaking one for an- 
other, Indeck realized he had 
stumbled onto an ideal magnetic 
security device. 

Using conventional cards and 
minimally modified card readers, 
the unique signature can be ei- 
ther encrypted on the magnetic 
stripe on the back of, say, a 
credit card or stored in a central 
data bank that can be accessed 
as easily as an ATM. So when 
your card is swept through an 
electronic scanner, if the wave 
form that comes up correlates to 
the original, the transaction is 
cleared. Says Indeck, "Every 
patch of magnetic medium can 
be authenticated." 

The potential applications are 
staggering. In addition to safe- 
guarding credit cards, this tech- 
nology could be used on debit 
cards, social security cards, driv- 
er's licenses, key cards, mass 
transit tickets — any card that 
uses a magnetic identification 
stripe. And with health care re- 
form on the horizon, this could 
minimize the illicit use of health 
cards, which, in Canada, is cur- 
rently a $100 million-a-year prob- 
lem in Ontario alone. 

And then there are the intrep- 
id computer wizards who purloin 
PIN numbers by wiretapping 
ATMs and use the numbers to 
pull off electronic heists. The fin- 
gerprints may even protect un- 
suspecting neighbors from the 
prank delivery of pink flamingos 
and neon canoes.DO 

onnrui oruuruE 


Omni Online chat sessions range from the serious to the silly 

By Holly Siegelman 

□ ne evening not too long 
ago, several acquaint- 
ances gathered on 
board their host's spaceship to 
talk about science fiction and 
fantasy. The conversation 
screeched to a halt as every- 
one's attention focused on a ten- 
tacle dangling outside the ship's 
window. "Quick, go into warp 
speed!" shouted one guest. An- 
other bravely climbed outside 
the ship and dispatched the 
monster with a harpoon. Mo- 
ments later, the conversation re- 
sumed over grilled space-mon- 
ster tentacle. 

Just another typical Saturday 
night on Omni Magazine Online, 
Omni's area on America Online. 
For about a year now, Omni On- 
line has held chat sessions virtu- 
ally every night of the week in its 
three chat rooms, covering sev- 
eral different areas of interest: 
the paranormal, UFOs, science 
fiction and fantasy, horror and 
dark fantasy, current science 
news, and futurism. (Currently, 
paranormal chats — dubbed Anti- 
matter chats — and science-fic- 
tion/fantasy chats make up the 
bulk of the schedule, taking 
place four times a week and five 
times a week, respectively.) 

Each chat session has a host 
to keep the chat from veering too 
far off the topic and to ensure 
that guests do not violate Amer- 
ica Online's Terms of Service, 
which define the standards of 
online behavior. Before they're 
ready to lead a chat, the hosts 
must undergo extensive training, 
a task handled by Jennifer Wat- 
son, Omni Online's remote staff 
coordinator and an extremely 
knowledgeable, long-time user of 
online services. Like the hosts, 
Watson, who goes by the screen 
name OMNI Angel, volunteers her 
time and effort to Omni Online. 

Watson subjects the host can- 
didates to a rigorous, 20-hour 

training session. Before "gradu- 
ating," the trainees must demon- 
strate their knowledge of every- 
thing from Terms of Service to 
the contents of the latest Omni, 
as well as their hosting ability. 

The most difficult part of host- 
ing is maintaining an intriguing 
conversation without being either 
too quiet or too overbearing, ac- 
cording to Watson. She teaches 
the hosts to encourage the dis- 
cussion without becoming the 
focus of the chat. Still, "the hosts 
have a wide spectrum of person- 
alities and knowledge," she says, 
"and this gives each of the chats 
a distinctive feel to it that the 
members enjoy" 

' In addition, hosting style and 
the feel of the chat vary from 
topic to topic. In the Antimatter 
chats and the weekly UFO Chat, 
the conversation can take on a 
very serious tone as guests 
share their unusual experiences, 
including encounters with UFOs, 
psychic phenomena, and near- 
death experiences. Yet a healthy 
group of skeptics also attends 
the sessions, proposing alternate 
explanations for these occur- 
rences. "In Antimatter and UFO 
chats, we are dealing with sub- 
jects that are in many ways like a 
religion," says Frank Sewald, 
who hosts UFO Chat as OMNI- 
Tensai. 'Every member has a dif- 
ferent perspective, which defines 
how he or she views the topic 
being discussed." 

The science-fiction/fantasy 
chats, by contrast, have a light- 
hearted feel, with the hosts often 
holding their chats in imaginary 
locations, such as a friendly tav- 
ern. "It's not just knowing the 
topic but being enthusiastic and 
excited about it that makes a dif- 
ference in the room," explains 
Miriam Nathan, who hosts both 
science-fiction/fantasy and Anti- 
matter chats as OMNlQuest. 
Themes in all the Omni Online 

chat sessions vary from week to 
week. In science-fiction/fantasy 
chats, for example, recent ses- 
sions have covered authors from 
Larry Niven to Anne McCaffrey, 
as well as ideal casts for film ver- 
sions of favorite books. 

For Antimatter and UFO chats, 
"I try to pick topics in the news 
currently," Sewald says. Recent 
sessions have dealt with the face 
on Mars and coverage oi the 
paranormal by tabloid TV news 
shows, among other subjects. 

Whatever the topics, Omni 
Online's chat sessions have 
proven to be one-rat the most 
popular facets of the service, 
with many "regulars" returning 
night after night. "The real virtue 
of the interactive forum," says 
Marilee J. Layman, who hosts 
This Week in Science Chat as 
OMNI Muse, "is being able to 
talk real time about a subject 
you're interested in with people 
all over the country who are also 
interested in that subject. "DO 

Each of 
Omni Online's 
15 active 
hosts has a dis- 
tinct style, 
which influences 
chatters end up 
The Hitchhiker'? 
Sam to the 
of women in 
science fiction. 



The lost ark may rest in an unlikely spot. Plus, our planet's getting dusty, 

and how to prevent back injuries 

Could the lost ark of the 
covenant — the actual an- 
cient chest into which 

Moses put the tablets of the 
Ten Commandments — lie 
today in a small church in 
Ethiopia? Very possibly, at 
least in the opinion of British 
journalist Graham Hancock, 
who makes the case for 
the Ethiopian claim in The 
Sign and the Seal: A Quest 
for the Lost Ark of the 
Covenant. Hancock, a for- 
mer East Africa correspon- 
dent for the Economist, 
spent the better part of 
three years researching the 

Ethiopian holy men provide 
clues for the recovery of the lost ark. 

Aswan. During the seventh 
century B.C., when the 
apostate king Manasseh 
ruled in Jerusalem and had 
replaced the ark in the tem- 
ple with a pagan idol, faith- 
ful Jews took the ark to 
safety. A colony of Jewish 
mercenaries had been liv- 
ing on Elephantine for some 
time, so Hancock argues 
that island might well have 
been an attractive haven for 
the ark. Around 410 B.C., 
however, the Jewish popu- 
lation on the island came 
into severe conflict with the 
Egyptians. The Elephantine 

possibility, following leads from northern France to Egypt, temple was destroyed, and the Jews of the island seem 
sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East, tracing the to have vanished. Hancock believes they carried the ark 
story of the ark from its construction by Moses, through south along the Nile and into the highlands of Ethiopia. 

its enshrinement by Solomon in his temple in Jerusalem 
and its unexplained disappearance sometime thereafter, 
and finally to the church of Saint Mary of Zion in Axum, 
Ethiopia, where Hancock believes it rests today. 

Outlandish as it may seem, the Ethiopian claim to the 
ark is quite old. As early as the thirteenth century, the 
Ethiopian chronicle Kebra Nagast recorded the legend of 
the ark's coming to Ethiopia, and European explorers 
from the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries re- 
ported the prevalence of the tradition among the 
Ethiopian people. Even today, every church of the 
Ethiopian Orthodox rite contains a tabot, a replica of the 
original ark, which holds a central place in church ritual. 
Despite this long history, Hancock is the first to undertake 
a rigorous analysis of the Ethiopian claim. "There has not 
been any serious study of the loss of the ark of the 
covenant," he says, "nor has there been any serious at- 
tempt to investigate Ethiopia's claim to possess it. So the 
field was completely open." 

The Kebra Nagast tells how Menelik, son of King 

Hancock conducted much of his research in Ethiopia it- 
self, while that troubled nation was constantly torn by 
conflict between a dictatorial government and a number 
of well-organized rebel groups. Whatever his evidence, 
though, it might still seem unbelievable that such an an- 
cient and mythical artifact could have existed undiscov- 
ered all this time— and that a journalist such as Hancock 
could succeed in unraveling the mystery where centuries 
of scholarship had failed. But to Hancock, it was his ama- 
teur status that made his insights possible. "One of the 
reasons nobody has done this before," he believes, "is 
because it requires synthesizing information from a lot of 
different subject areas," research not conducive to aca- 
demic specialization. Professional timidity may also have 
prevented some scholars from solving the puzzle. "It's re- 
ally quite dangerous for their careers," says Hancock. 
"Because of the nature of the object, they tend to stand 
back from it with a kind of fear that if they publish on this 
topic, their careers will be ruined." 

All in all, Hancock makes a pretty persuasive c 

Solomon and the Queen of Sheba (an Ethiopian, accord- many of his points are supported by independent sens- 
ing to the chronicle), brought the ark back with him from ars— but unless the Ethiopians allow researchers :c 
Jerusalem, and this tale is widely accepted by the people examine the object they guard so closely, his speeuto- 
of Ethiopia. According to Hancock, this legend is not liter- tions will be very difficult to prove. Hancock admits ~r<c 
ally true, but it contains a core of truth: The ark was his case is "a compilation of strong circumstantial art- 
brought to Ethiopia, he says, sometime toward the end of dence," but he feels it's strong enough at least tc loa- 
the fifth century B.C. Before that it resided in a Jewish lenge other investigators to put his hypotheses to the 
temple on the Egyptian island of Elephantine, near test.— ROBERT K. J. KILLHEFFER 



The kiss has enchanted ro- 
mantics and inspired 
poets for centuries, but its 
mechanics have eluded 
scientists. One tum-of-the- 
century physician de- 
fined it as "the anatomical 
juxtaposition of two orb- 
icularis oris muscles in a - 
state of contraction," 
which was no more than a 
nice try. Now, by means 
of an animated scan of the 
human head, British 
plastic-surgery researchers 
have revealed that a kiss 
consists of the squashing of 
a pair of muscles with a J- 
shaped cross section, unique 
to humans. 

30 OMNI 


Plastic surgeons' con- 
cerns that the movements of 

surgically reconstructed 
lips look unconvincing pro- - 
vided the impetus for the 
study. Conventional books on 
anatomy have depicted a 
two-dimensional, doughnut- 
shaped ring of muscles, 
crucial to such movements. 
But the scanner investi- 
gation, backed by the exam- 
ination of 50 dissected 
heads, revealed much more 
complex movements, with 

16 pairs of muscles converg- 
ing down onto the mouth. 

"We found how the posi- 
tion of these muscles 
changes in relation to each 
other, whether for a smile, 
a pout, or a kiss," explains 
plastic surgeon Elaine 
Sassoon, a member of the re- 
search team at the time 
of the investigation. "This 
hadn't been appreciated 
before. After lip-repairing op- 
erations, everything looked 
fine when the patients were 
asleep, but they might 
not be able to use their mouths 
very well when awake. 

"The information we 
now have is potentially use- 
ful for operations for cleft 
lips, skin cancers around the 
mouth, and facial paraly- 
sis," she adds. — Ivor Smullen 

". . . there is nothing wrong 

with She world. What's wrong 
is our way of looHing at it. " 

— Henry Miller 


A 12-year-old bonobo 
chimpanzee named Kanzi 
has become something 
of a teacher's pet at the Lan- 
guage Research Center 
of Georgia State University 
because of his uncanny 
ability to track a cartoon mon- 
key through Pac-Man-like 
mazes on a video screen. 

Psychologist Susan 
Savage-Rumbaugh hopes to 
learn how much of Kanzi's 
dexterity with a joystick comes 
from random luck and how 
much from an ability to plan 
far enough ahead to man- 
euver the target through the 
mazes. She turned Kanzi 
loose on mazes after he kept 
pace with a two-year-old 

girl in experiments that re- 
quired both to respond 
to spoken English commands. 
Soon, Kanzi coujd com- 
bine abstract symbols, called 
lexigrams, to tell research- 
ers what he wanted — food, TV, 
or other activities. 
The lexigram experi- 


ments involving Kanzi were 
performed under rigor- 
ously controlled conditions 
to ensure that the ape 
was not being influenced by 
verbal cues or simply 
responding to rote condition- 
ing. Kanzi couldn't see 
who gave him commands, 
and each sentence was 
new to him. Kanzi must envi- 

Video game champ? No, video 
game chimp I 

sion the routes available to 
his target in the mazes, and 
this ability, Savage-Rum- 
baugh believes, is related to 
the planning abilities need- 
ed to construct tools and lexi- 
grammatic sentences. 

— George Nobbe 


Colleen Murphy's invention 
seems so simple that 
she was amazed to learn 
from the U.S. Patent 
Office that no one had ever 
invented a mailbox alert 
system quite like hers: an indi- 
vidually coded, battery- 
powered, signaling system 
that works like a hotel- 
room message light — except 
hers tells you when your 
box contains mail. 

"A similar invention ran 
wires from the box and 
hooked them into an alarm 
clock," she says. Her 
device, however, needs no 
wires, instead, it relies 
on a small radio transmitter 
one-fourth the size of a 
TV remote mounted inside 
the mailbox. Whenever 
the door opens, it sends a 
pulse to your house or 
apartment, where a buzzer 

sounds for 1 seconds 
and a light goes on until you 
hit a reset button. The sig- 
nal carries about a quarter of 
a mile, enabling it to reach 
most country houses or pent- 
house apartments. 

The Mail Alert, as Murphy 

dubbed her gizmo, has 
met all the requisite postal 
requirements. Murphy, 
who lives in Easton, Connect- 
icut, came up with the 
idea when she tired of so 
many futile trips to the 
end of her longish driveway. 

At the moment, Murphy is 
still seeking a financial 
backer to help her launch 
and manufacture the 
device. Murphy hopes to be 
able to market the Mail- 
Alert to consumers for about 
$50.— George Nobbe 


breast cancer, thus reduc- 

radiologists much better 

er-assisted diagnosis to 


ing the need for in- 

means of visual detec- 

help scientists locate suspi- 

vasive surgery as well. 

tion of the very subtle differ- 

cious areas in breast tis- 

A digital mammography 

The light-detector 

ences in contrast in early- 

sue. Another benefit of the 

imaging system that 

array, which uses sophisti- 

stage lesions, particularly in 

technology is the ability 

dispenses with x-ray film 

cated charged-coupled 

younger women with 

doctors will have to transmit 

altogether could rev- 

devices (CCDs), can record 

denser breasts," says Jean- 

images to remote loca- 

olutionize the diagnosis of 

2D million individual pixels, 

Pierre Georges, Fischer 

tions via the information 

breast cancer. 

each 30 times smaller than 

Imaging's marketing vice 

superhighway to pro- 

That's the goal of a 

the period at the end of 

president. Livermore 

vide mammography services 

three-year, $3.28-million col- 

this sentence. And because 

originally developed the 

for rural areas. 

laboration involving sci- 

the system records the 

technology for weapons 

A clinical prototype 

entists from Lawrence Liver- 

images directly in digital 

applications, but CCDs have 

of the diagnostic toe 

more National Laboratory, 

form, they cart be com- 

also found their way into 

requires Food and Drug 

the University of Toronto, and 

puter-enhanced, permitting 

equipment used for surveil- 

Administration approval, 

Fischer Imaging in Denver, 

diagnosis of potentially 

lance and space explo- 

should be ready by 

Colorado. They believe their 

cancerous lesions and tu- 

ration, as well as some ad- 

year's end and could oe 

new imaging system will 

mors far smaller than 

vanced camcorders. 

used in routine clir.ica! 

produce clearer images 

those detectable by current 

Digital mammography 

studies in a haif-dazer. med- 

using less radiation, 

mammography techniques. 

has other tangible benefits, 

ical settings by ne>C yeat 

allowing more accurate and 

"The advantage of a dig- 

Georges claims. One of 

Georges says. 

far earlier detection of 

ital system is- that it gives 

these is the use of comput- 

— George Nobbe 



A company called Ballistic 
Recovery Systems has 
developed the ultimate in 
aircraft safety systems — 
a huge parachute that can 
safely lower a whole 
plane to the ground, pas- 
sengers and all. 

"The planes don't usually 
come down unscathed, 
but the people do," says Dan 
Johnson, marketing man- 
ager of the St. Paul, Minne- 
sota, company. Its GARD, 
or general aviation recovery 
device, can float a 1 , 645- 
pound Cessna 150 to earth 
even when deployed from 
altitudes as low as 300 feet. 
The nose gear generally 
suffers the only damage, . 

The 43-pound system 
operates on the same princi- 
ple as rocket-propelled 
ejection seats on military air- 
craft. Incase of trouble, 
the pilot just pulls a cockpit 

32 OMNI 

lever, and in half a second, 
a roof-mounted rocket, with 
a 1.7-second burn time, 
pulls out a pressurized de- 
ployment bag containing 
a 1 ,600-square-foot nylon 
canopy and suspension 
lines. The chute fully inflates 
in about five seconds. 

The company is working 
on systems for larger, 
four-seat aircraft weighing 
up to 3,000 pounds, and 
GARD, which has won FAA 
certification, could one 
day be used on much larger 
aircraft, according to 
Johnson, who notes that 
NASA has long used 
parachutes to lower 150,000- 
pound shuttle- rocket 
motors to earth for reuse. 


"Theoretically, if you 
push out enough cloth, you 
can recover anything," 
he says, explaining that one 
square foot of nylon can 
lower one pound of plane. Al- 
ready used in ultralight 
and kit-built planes, which 
do not require FAA cert- 
ification, GARD has saved 77 
lives in potentially fatal 
situations, Johnson claims. 

The system costs just 

under $5,500 for a Cessna 

150, with installation costs 

adding another $300 or so. 

— George Nobbe 

"Getting old isn't ail that 
great. Now, getting younger 
would be something. " 

— Groucho Marx 


tigator Meir J. Stampfer. 'Yet 


we cannot rule out a 

modest effect. In any case, 

It's a notion that Count 

there doesn't seem to 

Dracula would approve of; 

be a large increase in heart 

Losing blood regularly 

attacks in people with 

may protect against heart 

high ferritin levels." 


But that's missing the 

When the body loses 

whole point of the 

blood, it also loses iron, 

hypothesis, Sullivan con- 

which the body stores 

tends. "Measuringthe 

as ferritin, explains research 

magnitude of risk that high 

physician Jerome Sullivan 

ferritin confers won't 

of the Veterans Affairs Med- 

tell us as much as finding 

ical Center in Charleston, 

out how people with 

South Carolina. People with 

Jow or no ferritin do. How 

little or no stored iron are 

do they compare to 

less prone to heart attacks, 

people with high levels? 

says Sullivan, who orig- 

Are they protected?" 

inally published the hypo- 

Until research produces 

thesis in The Lancet in 

conclusive results, Sullivan 

1981, "My research sug- 

says, people may want to 

gests stored iron is an 

lower their stored iron 

extremely strong risk factor" 

levels, "Men and women 

Studies by Finnish 

past the age of meno- 

cardiologists published in 

pause may protect them- 

late 1992 lend weight to 

selves simply by do- 

his theory. Researchers ob- 

nating blood under med- 

served middle-aged men 

ical supervision. In fact, 

for five years and found that 

they may lower their risk of 

those who suffered heart 

heart attack to the level 

attacks had the most stored 

of a menstruating woman 

iron. Investigators con- 

during her fertile years." 

cluded it "is a risk factor for 

Donating blood three 

coronary heart disease." 

times a year should main- 

The antidote is simple: 

tain ideal ferritin levels, 

regular bleeding. "Not 

Sullivan adds. — Jim O'Brien 

a big blood loss, similar to 

what women of child- 


bearing age experience 

^^^is^^Br ^tH 

through menstruation," 


Sullivan says. 


Early last year, however, 

HraHKjl J 

evidence emerged that 

kJaB ■"■■■ ^BH 

seemed to contradict his 

■ ■ IHk/*' ^h 

hypothesis. A Harvard 


study detected no link be- 

tween elevated ferritin 

■ ^rf 

levels and heart attacks. 

■■Wi ^r 

"What we found does 

:*BJPB? t^r HH 

not seem to support the iron 

Donating blood may prated 

hypothesis," says inves- 

against heart attacks. 



It's been confirmed. Outer- 
space invaders are landing 
on earth by the trillions. 

But they're not extrater- 
restrial beings. Rather, 
they're tiny extraterrestrial 
dust particles dropping 
to earth at the rate of about 
40,000 tons per year. This 
estimate comes from Univer- 
sity of Washington astron- 
omers Stanley Love (now at 
the University of Hawaii) 
and Donald Brownlee, who 
arrived at the figure after 
studying part of the Long Du- 
ration Exposure Facility 
(LDEF)— a satellite that spent 
almost six years in orbit 
from 1984 to 1990. 

Love and Brownlee 
analyzed 13 LDEF panels 
whose surfaces pointed 
directly into space. They iden- 
tified 761 impact craters 
formed when cosmic dust 
particles slammed into 
the panels at velocities of 
about 27,000 miles per 

hour. By measuring the sizes 

of the craters, there- 
searchers determined both 
the rate of influx and the 
sizes of falling particles, the 
bulk of which measure 
less than a millimeter (one- 
thousandth of a meter) 
in diameter and weigh less 
than one hundred-thou- 
sandth of a gram. 

"In atypical year, almost 
all the weight of material 
falling on earth is in the form 
of small, submillimeter 
dust," Love says. By compar- 
ison, meteorites amount 
to only a few tens of tons per 
year. With this slow but 
steady drizzle of dust, plus 
the occasional thud of a 
meteorite, our planet seems 
to be gradually putting 
on more weight 

However, it's losing some 
weight at the same time. 
The earth loses some matter 
when upper-atmosphere 
gases, primarily hydrogen, 
drift off into space. This 
gaseous escape adds up to 
only about 50,000 tons a 

year according to rough cal- 
culations by University of 
Washington planetary scien- 
tist Conway Leovy. That 
may be enough to balance 
the estimated 40,000 tons 

of incoming dust. Leovy 
says the gain and loss are 
currently close, but that 
may not have been the case 
during earlier epochs." 

— Steve Nadis 


An improperly designed 
workstation hits a worker 
right in the lower back, 
a fact borne by workmen's 
compensation claims 
that cost companies untold 
millions each year. But a 
lumbar-motion monitor de- 
signed at Ohio State Uni- 
versity's biodynamics labo- 
ratory could reduce the 
number of such cases by 
enabling employers to 
analyze whether employees' 
working conditions 
could put them at risk of 

lower-back problems. 

To complete the analy- 
sis, a worker must wear 
the harnesslike device, mar- 
keted by the Chattanooga 
Group, during the working 
day. The four-pound de- 
vice is tethered to a laptop 
computer that records 
data received from sensors 
strategically placed along 
the device's exoskeleton. 

"The 'sensors provide 
three-dimensional motion 
analysis of the spine, 
since it is those muscles that 
are most frequently in- 
volved in back injuries," 
says the Chattanooga 
Group's Ed Dunlay. "They 
record each motion a 
worker makes and its effect 
on the lumbar spine." 

The computer's software 
compares the workers' 
twists and turns and their 
varying speeds to a data- 
base of risk profiles from 
over 400 industrial 
jobs — installing mufflers in 
an auto plant, for exam- 
ple, or lifting cases of soda 
at a bottling facility. 

Consistently high pro- 
files would alert employers 
that workstations need 
to be redesigned, says 
Dunlay, adding that a 
midwestern bottling plant 
and several car manu- 
facturers have done just 
that. — George Nobbe 

Tapping into spinal analysis 
may prevent back injuries. 

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ie the window the sky .meets the sea, tiorisf 

ng a panoramic vista of San Francisco Bay. of ws 

, Robert Russell is talking to his graduate at the 

its about a conjunction of "another sqrt: the and 

»g of theology and cosmology and the com- scien 

round shared by science and religion. the e 

jsefl, a gently spoken man whose boyish is no 

suggest considerably fewer than his 47 need 

. is both a physicist and a trained the- insigl 

n. To many people, the idea of a physicist- same 

>gian may seem like a contradiction in to tal 

p between science and religion is a -state 
. Eschewing this divisive view, Russell is 

forefront of a growing body of theologians 
dentists for whom religious faith and 

in Berkeley, California, the 
leading international center in 
this interdisciplinary field. 

Located on the quiet and 
leafy campus of the Graduate 
Theological Union (GTU), 
near the University of Cali- 
fornia at Berkeley, CTMS is 
situated appropriately among 
an interdenominational array 
of seminaries, including 
Jesuit, Lutheran, Episcopalian, 
and American Baptist schools, 
a Center for Jewish Studies, 
and an Institute for Buddhist 
Studies. In addition to his 
work with CTNS, Russell is the 
in-residence professor of 
theology and science at the 
GTU, where he teaches future 
clergy and priests and 
supervises doctoral students. 

In many ways, the Center 
for Theology and the Natural 
Sciences was a response to 
Russell's own personal history. 
As a graduate physics stu- 
dent in the Seventies, his 
thesis supervisor told him he 
had the potential to be a first- 
class scientist if only he could 
jettison his Christianity. Ig- 
noring such advice, at the 
same time he was gaining a masters in science from UCLA, 
Russell also was studying for a masters of divinity at the 
Pacific School of Religion. In 1978, the very same day he 
received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of 
California at Santa Cruz, he was also ordained as a minister 
in the United Church of Christ. This exotic combination 
entitles him to membership in the Society of Ordained 
Scientists, an organization started by British biologist and 
Anglican priest, Arthur Peacocke. Having completed his 
doctorate, Russell spent several years teaching physics at 
Carleton College but soon realized he wanted to bring the 
two sides of his life together in a more concrete- way. That 
need, he felt, was not unique to himself but was also shared 
by others who longed for a rapprochement between the 
spiritual and the scientific. 

Russell's intuition, however, ran counter to the more 
popular notion that science was the enemy of religion, and 
religion a blinding light in the face of scientific rationality. By 
way of anecdote, Russell explains what is at stake for the 
work of CTNS. A debate between an astronomer and a 
Christian was mediated by Ted Koppel one evening on 
Nightline. The astronomer clearly wanted a serious 
discussion about the religious implications, of his. work, but 
opposing him was Jerry Falwell — and so the debate went 
nowhere. Infuriated by the kind of religious rhetoric which 
associates science with Satan, Russell says that he 
"determined there and then that one of the goals of the 
CTIMS absolutely must be to provide the media with an 

33 OMNI 

alternative to Jerry Falwell." 
The American public must be 
able to see religious thinkers 
who are neither opposed to, 
nor ignorant of, science and 
its discoveries. ' 

The notion that religion is 
intrinsically antithetical to 
science is very deeply en- 
trenched in modern America. In 
1992 Russell was invited by 
then-Senator A! Gore to be 
one of a group of scientists 
and theologians to advise him 
on a Joint Statement about 
the Environment. A draft ver- 
sion of the statement con- 
tained a sentence which 
declared that science and 
religion had "always" been at 
war with one another. Pointing 
out that historically this simply 
wasn't true, Russell managed 
to have the wording changed 
from "always" to "often" — 
though only after heated de- 
bate with some of the scien- 
tists present, including Carl 
Sagan. "It was a small but sig- 
nificant victory," Russell says. 
Historically, the separation 
or competition between sci- 
ence and religion is a rather 
recent phenomenon. In the thirteenth century when 
Europeans rediscovered the science of the Greeks, 
theologians such as Thomas Aquinas and Robert Grosse- 
leste enthusiastically co-opted the ancients' knowledge of 
nature for religious purposes. Grosseteste, Bishop of Lincoln 
and first chancellor of Oxford University, used the newly 
revived science of geometric optics as the basis for his 
metaphysics of light, in which he proposed that light was the 
medium by which God spreads his divine grace throughout 
the universe. Under the influence of Aquinas, science and 
theology in the late Middle Ages were woven into a 
harmonious synthesis wherein science's first duty was to 
serve Christianity. Indeed, the belief that science should 
serve faith endured till the eighteenth century. Copernicus 
and Kepler both saw their cosmology as an anagogical 
pursuit; and Galileo notwithstanding, Newton himself once 
wrote that nothing could "rejoice" him more than that his 
science should be used for the purpose of demonstrating 
the existence of a deity. 

However, since Newton, the relationship between the two 
cultures has seriously disintegrated. Contrary to what many 
popular histories would have us believe, the split between 
science and the church does not date to Galileo but to the 
Enlightenment. Nancey Murphy, chair of the CTNS board 
and associate professor of Christian philosophy at the Fuller 
Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, explains that 
in order to keep religion respectable in the scientific age 
"liberal theologians redescribed theology in such a way that 

This Month on 

Thursdays 8PM [ 

Glowing up the Dunes Hotel. 

Rube Goldberg contest i 
re-mopping the world v\ 

First views or living color 
electron microscopy. Plus: 
Dolphin family groups & 
theTacoma Morrows Bridge 

rirying rootage or earth- 
akes. Plus: Death Valley's 
sterious Devil's Hole & 


became irrelevant to it." From 
the late eighteenth century, religion 
was reformulated so that rather than 
having "cognitive content" it merely 
"had to do with symbolic expressions 
of human values and that sort of thing." 
In other words, religion was discon- 
nected from the domain of empirical 
knowledge, and conversely, science 
was disconnected from the domain of 
morality and spirituality. That split has 
not only proved psychologically dissat- 
isfying to many people, according to 
Murphy it is philosophically insupport- 
able. Wow however, she says, "we're at 
a position where we've got the intellec- 
tual tools to argue that theology and 
science should not be kept in water- 
tight compartments, and in fact thai 
they really can't be." 

The incompatibility between science 
and religion is belied by the impressive 
array of Christian scientists (in the lit- 
eral sense of that phrase), who have 
been attracted to the CTNS since its in- 
ception. On the board of directors is 
Charles Townes, who in 1964 won the 
Nobel prize for physics for his contribu- 
tions to the development of the laser 
and maser. Another board member is the 
respected particle physicist Carl York, 
and this year's visiting research fellow 
is George Ellis — a world expert on 
space-time. Ellis, professor of applied 
mathematics at the University of Cape 
Town and a visiting professor of astron- 
omy at Queen Mary College, London 
University, was president of the Interna- 
tional Society of General Relativity and 
Gravitation from 1988 to 1992. He is 
also co-author with Stephen Hawking 
of the forbiddingly titled text, The Large 
Scale Structure of Spacetime. 

Yet where Hawking seems to relish 
the chance to highlight God's irrele- 
vance — if there is no moment of creation, 
there is no need for a Creator — Ellis is 
a Quaker who sees in the foundations 
of the latest physics manifest signs of a 
providential deity. Rather than being an 
oddity, however, Ellis tells me he is fol- 
lowing in a noble tradition. He points 
out that-Arthur Eddington, the first 
champion of general relativity after Ein- 
stein, was also a Quaker. It was Ed- 
dington who organized the famous 
1919 test of general relativity which 
corroborated Einstein's prediction that 
light bends as it passes by the sun- 
thereby demonstrating the inherent 
curvature of space-time. Similarly 
Georges LemaTtre, the first physicist to 
take seriously relativity's prediction of 
an expanding universe, was a Catholic 
priest. Clearly then, front-line physics 
and faith are far from incompatible. 

One of the Center's most fruitful rela- 
tionships is its ongoing partnership 

with the Vatican Observatory in Rome, 
with whom they hold joint biannual con- 
ferences under the rubric of "Divine 
Action in the World." Each conference 
brings together scientists, theologians, 
and philosophers to talk about a partic- 
ular aspect of science and its implica- 
tions for theology. Last year's topic, for 
instance, was chaos and complexity, 
while the 1991 conference was cen- 
tered around quantum cosmology and 
the laws of nature. In addition to the Di- 
vine Action conferences, the CTNS is 
currently undertaking a major project to 
look at the theological implications of 
the Human Genome Project — the inter- 
national effort to decode the set of 
genes contained in human chromo- 
somes. Although many groups are now 
studying the ethical and social implica- 
tions of this seminal endeavor, the 
CTNS is the only organization which 
has received National Institutes of 
Health funding to look at the theologi- 
cal issues. On top of these academic 
activities, the Center offers public lec- 
tures by its visiting fellows and also 
provides training and guidance for 
Christian ministers of all denominations 
in the form of workshops and seminars 
about science and its interaction with 
Christian faith. CTNS, which also pub- 
lishes both a quarterly scholarly jour- 
nal, The CTNS Bulletin, and a monthly 
newsletter, has. over 500 members from 
all over the world. 

From the point of view of faith, Rus- 
sell says, there is an urgent need "to 
empower the church to take seriously 
its own message" in the age of sci- 
ence. In other words, theology must be 
kept relevant to the times. That point 
was also stressed by William Stoeger, a 
Jesuit priest, astrophysicist at the Vati- 
can Observatory, and member of the 
Board at CTNS, who has been one of 
the chief organizers of the Divine Ac- 
tion conferences. "No religion which is 
enculturated into the Western world 
can afford to ignore science," he tells 
me. "It plays such a major role in our 
culture today." Stoeger points out that 
much of the language we now use, and 
even the very terms in which we think, 
are deeply influenced by science, so if 
religious people ignore this fact and 
"continue to rely on categories of 
thought from the Renaissance or the 
Middle Ages, then religion comes to be 
seen as an anachronism." Stoeger be- 
lieves that if concepts such as God as 
Creator are going to continue to make 
sense in the late twentieth century, then 
it needs to be articulated within the_ 
larger cultural context, a significant 
part of which is modern science and 
cosmology. We need to be able to see 
specifically just "how God could be 

working within the natural processes 
revealed by contemporary science". ■ 

For this reason one of the CTNS's 
primary strategies has been to take on 
highly theoretical topics like quantum 
cosmology and show how they can be 
relevant to traditional Christian concerns, 
For instance Russell has shown that 
Hawking.'s "no boundary" cosmology 
has indirect but important relevance to 
the doctrine of creation ex nihiio. Being 
of service to the faithful was hardly 
Hawking's intention — despite his much- 
quoted closing line about knowing "the 
mind of God." the famed British physi- 
cist's stance is deeply antireligious. Yet 
Russell believes Hawking's cosmology 
resolves a long-standing theological 
dilemma: How could a temporal uni- 
verse have been created by a timeless 
deity? By offering a model of the uni- 
verse which has no definitive begin- 
ning and where time gradually emerges 
as a distinct phenomenon, Russell 
says Hawking has provided a scientific 
analog for the Augustinian view that 
God created the universe with time 
rather than in time. Since in Hawking's 
model time arises out of something on- 
tologically prior, it in itself becomes 
part of creation, just as Augustine sug- 
gested in the fifth century. 

Similarly George Ellis has used 

physicists' knowledge of the funda- 
mental constants of nature as evidence 
for a providential designer. According 
to contemporary physics, many of the 
basic constants of nature, such as the 
fine-structure constant and the proton- 
neutron mass difference, appear to 
have highly providential values; if these 
values were even slightly different, it 
seems unlikely that a universe compati- 
ble with the biological evolution of life 
would have formed at all. Ellis employs 
this as the basis for an updated version 
of the old "argument from design"— the 
idea that the apparent purposefulness 
in the construction of nature points to 
the hand of a purposeful "Designer," 
emphasizing the importance of ethical 
issue Which, he claims," cannot be 
meaningfully included in a world view 
based solely on physics." Though their 
work differs significantly, both Russell 
and Ellis argue that physics has "both 
criticized and restructured" traditional 
theological positions. Far from making 
religion seem redundant, Russell says 
contemporary science can provide 
"scope and insight for faith." 

Quite apart from the psychological 
need many people feel to integrate the 
two cultures, there are increasingly ur- 
gent practical reasons why the reli- 
gious community cannot continue to 

ignore science. Here the relevant field 
is not so much physics as the biologi- 
cal sciences— particularly genetics, 
which is now generating a whole slew 
of technologies with profound theologi- 
cal consequences. Hence the CTNS's 
interest in the" Human Genome Project 
and their three-year grant from the Na- 
tional Institutes of Health. Russell 
stresses that with respect to genetics 
they are "not an advocacy group there 
to take a particular position," rather the 
purpose of their work is "to help those 
in a position of moral voice to make 
more informed decisions." He sees the 
CTNS's role as being one of helping 
the religious community to understand 
what the scientific issues are and how 
to talk coherently about them in a theo- 
logical context. Just how to do that is 
by no means obvious, for as Ted Peters 
points out, the Bible is notoriously silent 
on the subject of DNA. 

Peters is a tall, loose-limbed man 
with a relaxed manner and easy grace 
that is more evocative of the range than 
the pulpit, but his voice was undeni- 
ably made for public speaking. Deep, 
resonant, and animated, I at once 
imagine he must deliver a thrilling ser- 
mon. As a professor of systematic 
theology at the Pacific Lutheran Theo- 




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"Kaci:'?' i loi v<) r.v herd disbe ef 

"Paula." i sa : d. 

"KaronT friie lime ! didn't answer. 
The m y oloes-. Iwjstod ir my 
.v-stc 9>e the visitor. 

It was the kind of neighborhood 
where women sat all morning on 
porches :•' stoops, watching children 
pi;iy nr: vie sidewalk. Steps sagged; 
pn-r: ()(;■■ (;d; small front lawns were 
scraooc ba-e by feet and tricycles and 
cast'C wed 'fig pools. Women lived a 
few ooors down from their mothers, 
oath of ircn growing heavier every 
year lhe'c were few men. The ones 
■here were cidn't seem to stay long. 

I sa;d. "hpw did you find me?" 

'li vj-v.-.r't hard," Paula said, and I 
knew she n dn't understand my smile. 
t)i course it wasn't hard. I had never 
nui'idijo i' should be. This was 
j-\:y.'. ll.u-r. y the first time in nearly five 
year:; thai P-iuiahad looked. 

She Icwced her perfect body onto 
me porch steps. My little girl, Lollie, 
Q?.7vr. a: nor from my lap. Then Lollie 
opened '■•i.t cupped hands and smiled. 
"See :ry hoy, lady?" 

"Ve'y ace," Paula said. She was 
eying ha'd lo hide her contempt, but 1 
could sod it. For the sad imprisoned 
frog, for Loll e's dirty face, for the worn 
ya'd for tne way I looked. 

"Karen Paula said, "I'm -ic;re 
because there's a problem. W*-i :>«■ 
proieor More specifically with V\i. :;nti<jl 
lorm jlas. we think. With a portion o* l'ie 
•lar.OHSwnibler code from five years 
ago. wn«r you were . . . still with us " 

"A o'Obom," I repeated. Irsdc no 
house, a bjby wailed. "Just a r-iryte " 

I set Lollie down and wen: nside. 
I o r cr ; ed in her crib. Her diaper 
reekeo I put a pacifierin he' -ci.^i 
an: ctHo'ed her in my left arm. W.'i iw. 
right arm I scooped Timmy 'fro'" fi's 
crib, When he didn't wake, 1 jos: cd t m 
a little.. I carried both babies oack *c 
the porch, deposited Timmy ir \r.c 
portacrib, and sat down next to Pau:a. 

"Lollie, go get me a diaper -iorey 
And wipes. You can carry yo:r i'cc 
inside to get them." 

Lollie went; she's a sweet- rw-.jren 
kid. Paula stared incredulously at tit? 
twins. I unwrapped Lor i's diaoe' and 
Paula grimaced and slid farther away 

"Karen n r c yni; '^to-irc re re' 

This \z important'" 
■ "I'm listening." 
"The -wiocomputc instiut:ti-::-c:; .;'<• 

'•'m omn'i 












off. so".ehuw The major resuts cnec-; 
out y " Obviously- Ine 
media had .p«;ii f v« years exc a ~ irg 
over '.ne r*\ai:ir !csi..tH. ' b j: there 

are some odd foldings in the proteins 
of the twelfth-generation nano- . 
assemblers;" Twelfth generation. The 
nanocomputer attached to each 
assembler replicates itself every six 
months. That was one of the project's 
checks and balances on the margin of 
error. It had been five and a half years. 
Twelfth generation was about right. 

"Also," Paula continued, and I heard 
the strain in her voice, "there are some 
unforeseen macrolevel developments. 
We're not sure yet that they're tied to 
the nanocomputer protein folds. What. 
we're trying to do now is- cover all the 

"You must be. working, on fairly 
remote variables if you're reduced to 
asking me." 

"Well, yes, we are. Karen, do you 
have to do that now?' 

"Yes." I scraped the shit off Lori with 
one edge of the soiled diaper. Lollie 
danced out of the house with a clean 
one. She sat. beside me, whispering to 
her frog. Paula said, "What I 
need . . ,- what the project needs . . ," 

I said, "Do'you remember the 
summer we collected frogs?' We were 
maybe eight and ten. You'd become 
fascinated reading about that 
experiment where they threw a frog in . 
boiling Water but it jumped out,- and 
then they put a. frog in cool water and 
gradually increased- the temperature to 
boiling until the stupid frog just sat 
there and died. Remember?" 

"Karen . . ." 

"I collected sixteen frogs for you, 
and when I found out what you were 
going to do with them, I cried and tried 
to let them go. But you boiled eight of 
them anyway. The other eight were 
controls. I'll give you that— proper 
scientific method. To reduce the 
margin of error, you said." 

"Karen . . . we were just kids . . ." 

I put the clean diaper on Lori. "Not 
all kids behave like that. Lollie doesn't. 
But you wouldn't know that, would you? 
Nobody in your set has children. You 
should have had a baby, Paula." She 
barely hid her shudder. But, then, most ' 
of the people we knew felt the same 
way. She said, "What the project needs 
is for you to come back and work on the 
same small area you did originally. Look- 

ing for something— anything— you 
might have 1 missed in the protein- 
coded instructions to successive gen- 
erations of nanoassemblers." 

"No," I said. 

"It's not really a matter of choice. 
The macrolevel problems — I'll be frank, 
Karen. It looks like a new form of can- 
cer. Unregulated replication of some 
very weird cells." 

"So take the cellular nanomachinery 
out." I crumpled the stinking diaper 
and set it out of the baby's reach. 
Closer to Paula. 

"You know we can't do that! The 
project's irreversible!" 

"Many things are irreversible," I said. 
Lori started to fuss. I picked her up, 
opened my blouse, and gave her the 
breast. She sucked greedily. Paula 
glanced away. She has had nanoma- 
chinery in her perfect body, making it 
perfect, for five years now. Her breasts 
will never look swollen, blue-veined, 

"Karen, listen . . ." 

"No . . . you listen." I said quietly. 
"Eight years ago you convinced Zwei- 
gler I was only a minor member of the 
research team, included only because 
I was your sister. I've always wondered, 
by the way, how you did that — were 
you sleeping with him, too? Seven 
years ago you got me shunted off into 
the minor area of the project's effect on 
female gametes — which nobody cared 
about because it was already clear 
there was no way around sterility as a 
side effect. Nobody thought it was too 
high a price for a perfect, self-repairing 
body, did they? Except me." Paula 
didn't answer. Lollie carried her frog to 
the wading pool and set it carefully in 
the water. I said, "I didn't mind working 
on female gametes, even if it was a 
backwater, even if you got star billing. I 
was used to it, after all. As kids, you 
were always the cowboy; I got to be 
the horse. You were the astronaut, I 
was the alien you conquered. Remem- 
ber? One Christmas you used up all 
the chemicals in your first chemistry set 
and then stole mine." 

"I don't think trivial childhood inci- 
dents matter in . . ." 

"Of course you don't. And I never 
minded. But I did mind when five years 
ago you made copies of all my notes 
and presented them as yours, while I 
was so sick during my pregnancy with 
Lollie. You claimed my work. Stole it. 
Just like the chemistry set. And then 
you eased me off the project." 

"What you did was so minor . . ." 

"If it was so minor, why are you here 
asking for my help now? And why 
would you imagine for half a second I'd 
give it to you?" She stared at me, cal- 

■ ?f- 




: ^M]^^^ 

^i^lt ^ 



Larry Rivers, ArtW tfer Artist; P/oisso, Mi>es, (.oner? and Offspring, 1992. Courtesy, Marlborough Gallery 

Guccione, Three Women at a Round Table, 1962. Courtesy, Ambassador Galleries, Inc. 

Tom Wesselman, Si 

■ktenstem, 1992. Courtesy, Sidney Janis Gallery 

Roy Lichtenstein, H«k/ ( 1980- Private Collection- Kzd Grooms, Bed Time for Raitscbenberg, 1991. Courtesy, Marlborough Gallery 

josef Levi, Still Life with Matisse and Raphael II, 1991 . Courtesy, O.K. Harris Gallery 

David Hockney, Parade with Unfinished BacMrop, 1980. Courtesy, The Virginia Museum of Fine Art 


SEPTEMBER 27, 1994 - JANUARY 1, 1995 



culating. I stared back coolly. Paula 
wasn't used to me cool. I'd always 
been the excitable one. Excitable, 
flighty, unstable — that's what she told 
Zweigler. A security risk. 

Timmy fussed in his portacrib. I stood 
up, still nursing Lori, and scooped him 
up with my free arm. Back on the steps, 
I juggled Timmy to lie across Lori on 
my lap, pulled back my blouse, and 
gave him the other breast. This time 
Paula didn't permit herself a grimace. 

She said, "Karen, what I did was 
wrong. I know that now. But for the sake of 
the project, not for me, you have to . . .'" 

"You are the project. You have been 
from the first moment you grabbed the 
headlines away from Zweigler and the 
others who gave their life to that work. 
'Lovely Young Scientist Injects Self With 
Per(ect-Cell Drug!' 'No Sacrifice Too 
Great To Circumvent FDA Shortsight- 
edness, Heroic Researcher Declares.' " 

Paula said flatly, "You're jealous. 
You're obscure and I'm famous. You're 
a mess and I'm beautiful. You're . . ." 

"A milk cow? While you're a brilliant 
researcher? Then solve your own re- 
search problems." 

"This was your area ..." 

"Oh, Paula, they were all my areas. I 
did more of the basic research than 
you did, and you know it. But you knew 

how to position yoursell with Zweigler, 
to present key findings at key mo- 
ments, to cultivate the right con- 
nections. And, of course, I was still 
under the delusion we were partners. I 
just didn't realize it was a barracuda 
partnering a goldfish." 

From the wading pool Lollie 
watched us with big eyes. "Mommy . . '." 

"It's okay, honey. Mommy's not mad 
at you. Look, better catch your frog- 
he's hopping away." 

She shrieked happily and dove for 
the frog. Paula said softly, "I had no 
idea you were so angry after all this 
time. You've changed, Karen." 

"But I'm not angry. Not any more. 
And you never knew what I was like 
before. You never bothered to know." 

"I knew you never wanted a scien- 
tific life. Not the way I did. You always 
wanted kids. Wanted . . . this." She 
waved her arm around the shabby 
yard. David left eighteen months ago. 
He sends money. It's never enough. 

"I wanted a scientific establishment 
that would let me have both. And I 
wanted credit for my work. I wanted 
what was mine. How did you do it, 
Paula — end up with what was yours 
and what was mine, too?" ■ 

"Because you were distracted by 
baby shit and frogs!" Paula yelled, and 

I saw how scared she really was. Paula 
didn't make admissions like that. A tac- 
tical error. I watched her stab desper- 
ately for a way to retain the advantage. 
A way to seize the offensive. I seized it 
first. "You should have left David alone. 
You already had Zweigler; you should 
have left me David. Our marriage was 
never the same after that." 

She said, "I'm dying, Karen." 

I turned my head from the nursing 
babies to look at her. 

"It's true. My cellular machinery is 
running wild. The nanoassemblers are 
creating weird structures, destructive 
enzymes. For five years they replicated 
perfectly and now. ... For five years it 
all performed exactly as it was pro- 
grammed to . . ." 

I said, "It still does." 

Paula sat very still. Lori had fallen 
asleep. I juggled her into the portacrib 
and nestled Timmy more comfortably 
on my lap. Lollie chased her frog 
around the wading pool. I squinted to 
see if Lollies lips were blue! 

Paula choked out, "You pro- 
grammed the assembler machinery in 
the ovaries to . . ." 

"Nobody, much cares about 
women's ovaries. Only fourteen per : 
cent of college-educated women want 
to muck up their lives with kids. Recent 
survey result. Less than one percent 
ma'gin of error." 

". . . you actually sabotaged . . . 
hundreds of women have been in- 
jected by now, maybe thousands . . ." 

"Oh, there's a reverser enzyme," I 
said. "Completely effective if you take it 
before the twelfth-generation replica- 
tion. You're the only person that's been 
injected that long. I just discovered the 
reverser a few months ago, tinkering with 
my old notes for something to do in what 
your friends probably call my idle do- 
mestic prison. That's provable, inciden- 
tally. All my notes are computer-dated." 

Paula whispered,, "Scientists don't 
ctothis . . ." 

"Too bad you wouldn't let me be one." 

"Karen . . ." 

"Don't you want to know what the re- 
verser is, Paula? It's engineered from 
human chorionic gonadotropin. The 
pregnanGy hormone. Too bad you 
never wanted a baby." 

She went on staring at me. Lollie 
shrieked and splashed with her frog. 
Her lips were turning blue. I stood up, 
laid Timmy next to Lori in the portacrib, 
and buttoned my blouse. 

"You made an experimental error 
twenty-five years ago," I said to Paula. 
"Too small a sample population. Some- 
times a frog jumps out." 

I went to lift my daughter from the 
wading pool.DQ 

"So much for the good life. " 

that this icon, which the Boutros 
family bought in a church gift shop 
in Cairo, is weeping oil tears. The cam- 
era cuts to an exotic, bearded figure 
in a long, black cassock, identified 
as a bishop of the Coptic Orthodox 
Church, a sect of Christianity hailing 
from Egypt. He assures the greater 
New York audience that a miracle 
has indeed occurred. 

Back In the newsroom, the TV 
anchor smiles in a who knows 
, kind of way. The story was clearly 
meant to be a footnote on the rich- 
ness of life in the Big City. What the 
news team didn't count on, however, 
was the tremendous longing for 
religious experience— for first-hand 
contact with the miraculous and 
divine — that is driving people across 
the country to sites like Bensonhurst. 

By April, the icon was- said to 
have stopped weeping— dripping 
a type of vegetable oil — but the faith- 
ful continued to come. Most, even 

n March 21, 1994, New York's 
ended with this pious tableau: 
Egyptian immigrant family 
apartment in Bensonhurst, 
up reverently at a glistening 
Mary. With detached amuse 

the merely curious, crept up the 
aisle to the icon as if it were alive. 
The pilgrims would reverently make 
the sign of the cross and, enrap- 
tured, stand before the icon — a doll- 
like head of hammered copper, 
bowed down under an elaborate 
Byzantine-style halo. 

We have the holy oil from the 
icon mixed with olive oil for the 
pilgrims," says Father Mina Yanni, 
priest at the church and a compact 
bundle ol energy with a gray beard 
and merry eyes. Indeed, visitors 
dipped balls of cotton into a jar of 
this "blessed" mixture, a thick, 
greenish liquid carefully placed 
below the icon. Olive oil was added 
to the icon's own secretions, Father 
Yanni explains, when the real 
vegetable oil ceased its flow. "Of 
course it's a miracle," he adds. "This 
is a message from St. Mary. She 
wants people to have good relations 
with the Lord." 

But Brooklyn's oily miracle is just 
the latest eruption in a volcanic 
surge of miraculous events and 
apparitions involving the Virgin Mary. 
In a backyard in Marlboro Township, 
Mew Jersey, an apparition of Mary 
continued to galvanize thousands 
who persisted in visiting the property 
even after the local bishop issued a 
statement declaring that the vision 
was unproven at best. In the end, 
the bishop's office had to persuade 
the visionary to post a "No Tres- 
passing" sign to keep people away. 
And an even rarer phenomenon was 
reported at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton 
Catholic Church in suburban Lake 
Ridge, Virginia. There, a young 
assistant priest, Fr. James Bruse, 
developed stigmata — the bleeding 
wounds of Christ— on his wrists, feet, 
and chest. In his presence, said the 
faithful, statues of the Virgin Mary 
wept, people were healed, and 
rosaries changed from steel to gold. 


Article by Tracy Cochran • Apparitions of the Mother touch the faithful and! 

eleven o'clock Eyewitness News 
A solemn, modestly dressed 
and their friends crowd an 
Brooklyn, all of them staring 
copper icon of the Virgin 
ment, the TV anchor announces 

Jesus and the angels have gotten 
into the act as well. In recent 
years, for example, thousands of 
people have reported seeing Jesus 
on a soybean-oil storage tank in 
Fostoria, Ohio; on a formica tabletop 
in a junkyard in Barrett Station, 
Texas; and even in a billboard 
picture of a forkful of noodles in 
Atlanta, inspiring the moniker, 
"spaghetti savior." Angels, mean- 
while, have engendered a whole 
new industry, with sales of angel 
books, calendars, and video tapes 
flying off the shelves, Reports of 
angels are so numerous that a 
Waquoit, Massachusetts, group 
called Twenty-eight Angels has 
even set up a 24-hour hotline, 1- 
800-28-ANGEL None of this should 
.be surprising. According to a 
recently published Gallup poll, 
believers abpund; Eight out of ten 
Americans surveyed said that 
miracles are granted by God. 

What on earth, or off it, is going 
on? In the end, the visions, 
especially those involving Mary, are 
most striking for the passion and 
longing seen in the visionaries 
themselves. Visit the site of a Mary- 
vision, and you'll find people yearn- 
ing for the all-caring compassionate 
mother, and for the divine. 

This mother and child reunion, 
states Sandra ZimdarS-Swartz, 
a professor of religion at the Uni- 
versity of Kansas and the author of 
Encountering Mary (Avon), is 
nothing less than "a quest for the 
pristine order the world has aban- 
doned. To the visionaries who actu- 
ally behold the apparition, Mary is 
seen as a tender and concerned 
mother who calls her children away 
from the brink of disaster," says 
Zimdars-Swartz. "To the larger 
group following the visionaries from 
camp to camp, Mary is the leader of 
a mighty army of spiritual warriors 

ready to battle the forces of evil. 
That army, mostly Catholic and con- 
servative, is seeking reassurance, 
moral certainty, and personal 
mystical experience sometimes 
hard to achieve through the organ- 
ized religions we have today." 
Paul Kurtz, chairman of the Com- 
mittee for the Scientific Inves- 
tigation of Claims of the Paranormal 
(CSICOP) and author of Transcen- 
dental Temptation: A Critique of 
Religion and the Paranormal 
(Prometheus) sees the trend as a 
dangerous throwback to the dark 
days of medievalism, when the 
quest for scientific knowledge 
seemed to falter and then fail, "If any 
promise is held out for an afterlife, 
people will flock to it," Kurtz says. 
"People who visit these apparitions 
and weeping statues will be 
suspicious of their political leaders' 
every motive and utterance, But 
when it comes to these apparitions 


haunt the landscape of Suburbia, U.S.A. • Illustration by Marvin Mattelson 

and these visionaries, they exercise no 
skepticism at all." 

Yet Zimdars-Swartz feels that the 
hugely popular trend of encountering 
Mary, like other religious movements of 
the past, should not necessarily be 
viewed in logical, or literal, terms. "The 
phenomenon," she says, "shows skep- 
tics and believers alike the limits of 
their own beliefs." 

These Marian visions have long 
challenged our beliefs. In the twelfth 
century, according to Zimdars-Swartz, 
devotion to the mother of Jesus blos- 
somed in Western Christianity. Until the 
nineteenth century, she adds, most 
such reports were private, one-time af- 
fairs. Then in 1858, in the foothills of 
the Pyrenees in the French town of 
Lourdes, a young peasant girl named 
Bernadette Soubirous saw a series of 
apparitions of a young woman who 
was quickly judged to be the Virgin 
Mary. To this day, pilgrims pour into 
Lourdes to partake of healing waters 
that the blessed Virgin Mary reportedly 
left as a sign. 

Of all the public appari- 
tions of Mary, however, the 
sighting in Fatima, Portugal, 
may be the most mysterious 
and the most revered. Indeed, 
Pope John Paul II has actually 
credited the "Lady of Fatima" 
with saving his life when he 
was shot. 

The most dramatic of sev- 
eral mass sightings at Fatima 
occurred on October 13, 
1917, when some 70,000 
people stood in the pouring 
rain to watch three shepherd children 
who were allegedly seeing Mary, A 
good portion of those onlookers re- 
ported this strange sight: Just before 
noon, the rain stopped and the sun ap- 
peared as a flat, silver disc that sud- 
denly plunged toward the earth and 
stopped just short of crashing, then 
rose back into the sky, resuming its 
normal brilliance. Just as amazing— 
and widely reported— the clothes of the 
onlookers, drenched by the heavy 
downpours, were instantly dry. After 13 
years of investigation, the Catholic 
Church announced that far too many 
classes and categories of people had 
seen the phenomenon for it to be a col- 
lective illusion. 

Finally, the most recent and perhaps 
the most controversial apparition (it still 
hasn't been approved by the Church) 
today makes its appearance in Medju- 
gorje, a tiny mountaintop village in 
Bosnia. In this remote, war-weary spot, 
six visionaries have been seeing and 
receiving messages from the Virgin 
Mary for a decade. 

To this day, pilgrims brave rocket fire 
to stream into Medjug.orje. And one 
man's pilgrimage in the late 1980s 
opened the door for Mary in a most un- 
likely place — the suburban community 
of Marlboro Township, New Jersey, 
land of split-levels, swimming pools, 
and barbecue grills. ■ 

Mary first appeared to Joseph 
Januszkiewicz in his Marlboro back- 
yard. Just after dark one night 
Januszkiewicz, a diminutive 56-year- 
old Polish immigrant, walked out of his 
tan ranch house and knelt before his 
blue-eyed statue of the Madonna, 
bought to commemorate his trip. Sud- 
denly, there she was, hovering above 
the blue spruce trees just off the 
back patio. Astonished by the appari- 
tion, he yelled to his wife, who ran out 
and sprinkled holy water all around 
just in case it was some demonic trick. 
The Virgin Mary is said to have smiled 
at this piety and perhaps, in acknowl- 
edgment, began visiting Januszkiewicz 
like clockwork. 

IN THE LATE 1980s, 



Finally in 1992, the apparition that 
sometimes calls herself "the yellow 
rose of peace" instructed the devout 
gray-haired immigrant who worked as 
a draftsman to tell others what he was 
seeing. She promised, he reported, to 
appear to him after dark on the first 
Sunday of every month. Januszkiewicz 
told and people came in droves. 

Though Januszkiewicz refused to 
talk to the press, his suburban altar 
was open to all. On the balmy June 
evening I visited, five to six thousand 
people had gathered. The Marlboro 
Township police" had closed the roads 
to parking to discourage people from 
coming, so thousands of us walked two 
miles down lanes that bordered horse 
farms, lugging coolers and children 
and aluminum chairs. 

It was still light when my husband 
and I got to Januszkiewicz's yard. The 
scene had all the palpable excitement 
and anticipation of an outdoor concert 
before the show. 

People sat waiting in rows on blan- 
■kets or folding chairs. They stood in 

line for the portable toilets that a de- 
vout Italian man had donated. And they 
stood in line to pray at the Madonna 
statue inside a trellis arch decorated 
with pine boughs and flowers. People 
hugged and greeted each other, in low, 
excited voices and fingered rosaries 
and prayed with eyes squeezed shut. 

The pilgrims looked like the range of 
people you see in a mall: young par- 
ents in stone-washed jeans pushing 
strollers, a few muscular guys in under- 
shirts showing off tattoos, groups of re- 
tired ladies in crayon-colored sweat- 
suits and tight halos of permed white 
hair. They all watched the sky as it 
turned a deep celestial blue. 

"You heard what happened last 
night, didn't you?" asked an elderly 
lady in a white cableknit cardigan. "The 
moon split in two." 

"We- didn't hear about that," said a 
woman in a windbreaker snapped up 
to her chin. ! 'But last time we saw a big 
colored ring spinning around the sun." 
It wasn't until darkness fell and 
Januszkiewicz came out 
and knelt at his shrine, 
however, that a frenzied 
sort of hunger swept the 
crowd. "Look, look, over 
there! Do you see it? It's 
showering gold." A scream 
and another scream, and 
hundreds of flashbulbs 
srartec: popping off, aimed 
at the TV antennae over 
the house, aimed at the 
blue spruce trees, aimed 
at the stars themselves. 
"Look at that planet. See it 
move?" Far in the back, an oid woman 
was praying in Italian with her arms 
stretched out like a cross, her palms 
open to the sky. When it was over, thou- 
sands filed out of Januszkiewicz's yard 
and into dark country roads, guided by 
the swinging flashlights of Marlboro 
Township police. 

It was the light of faith that led some 
of these pilgrims from Marlboro to an- 
other great American suburb, Lake 
Ridge, Virginia. There, in St. Elizabeth 
Ann Seton Church, statues of the Virgin 
are said to weep in the presence of a 
young, mop-topped, mustachioed 
priest, Father James Bruse. 

Could they be weeping for the con- 
flict hidden in the soul of Lake Ridge, 
where people drive luxury cars with 
mobile phones and decorate the front 
doors of their neat colonial and ranch 
houses with wreaths of berries and 
twigs? Indeed, the houses and lanes in 
this growing, affluent community were 
planned and laid out with a military pre- 
cision that seems at odds with the 
rolling Virginia landscape. Many of the 

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I I i i I 

I I I I I 

I I I I I 

I I I I I 

Address _ 

people who live here, those who pour 
into St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church to 
see Father Bruse, are highly trained 
professionals who work for the military, 
the FBI, and the CIA, and they practice 
a simple, conservative brand of 
Catholicism that doesn't go in for the 
mystical. It's fair to say that as a parish 
they personify Jung's definition of 
psychic dissonance: Technologically 
sophisticated yet spiritually fervent and 
innocent, they fill their homes with 
state-of-the-art computers and folk art. 
Highly mobile, they idealize a rooted 
country life that has nothing to do with 
the high-pressure, transitory lives they 
really lead. 

Yet it was in this buttoned-down 
community in December 1991, that Fa- 
ther Bruse began bleeding from the 
wrists and feet. For months, few out- 
side the inner circle of priests and 
Boise's family knew what was happen- 
ing. Bishop John Keating instructed 
Bruse's superior, Father Daniel Hamil- 
ton to quietly have Bruse checked out 
by both a psychiatrist and an internist; 
after careful examination, both judged 
Bruse to be normal. In March 1992, 
however, the gold-painted, fiberglass 
Madonna in the sanctuary of St. Eliza- 
beth Ann Seton Church reportedly 
began to weep in front of some 500 

people, and the cat was out of the bag. 

From' that day to the present, thou- 
sands of people have descended on 
the church hoping to see a statue 
weep or receive a blessing from Father 
Bruse. As time passed, miracles were 
reported to abound: Visitors were said 
to be healed and witnesses saw the 
spinning suns associated with Mary 
since Fatima. And in the presence of 
Father Bruse, countless statues of the 
Virgin Mary (including a tiny statue in- 
side a woman's purse, said to be 
streaming with tears) could be counted 
on to weep. 

The balmy spring Sunday I at- 
tended mass, the spare, modern church 
was overflowing with people hoping to 
see the four-foot-high Madonna beside 
the altar weep or catch a glimpse of 
the bandaged wrists of Father Bruse. 

"We don't live in Jesus's time, when 
great Roman armies surrounded us 
and we had to watch what we said," in- 
toned the bearish Father Daniel Hamil- 
ton, who challenged his congregation 
to go out into the world and "bear wit- 
ness to the truth of the Lord." 

When the service was over, how- 
ever, a small crowd flowed out not to 
spread the word, but rather right down 
to the altar, to the Madonna with her ar- 
tificial-flower crown. "She helps me feel 

God's presence," said one well- 
dressed woman from New Jersey who 
had been to Marlboro as well. 

Standing nearby, church member 
Nancy Hall, a spritely, middle-aged 
hornemaker with a pixish-salt-and-pep- 
per bob, added that the Lake Ridge 
miracles have in fact drawn people 
back to church, "and I think that's 
pretty neat. I tend to be a skeptic, so 
I'm not quite decided about what I 
think," says Hall. "But if indeed this is 
all really happening, and it seems to 
be, it's because God had to do some- 
thing to get people to listen. It seems 
that we've gotten to a point where 
something dramatic needed to happen 
to get our attention." 

The Church itself has withheld judg- 
ment and, true to form, has delivered a 
noncommittal response. Indeed, the 
Chancery of the Diocese of Arlington 
reacted to the Lake Ridge phenome- 
non with this cautious statement: "In 
this particular case, there is no deter- 
mined message attached to the re- 
ported physical phenomena, and thus 
there is no ecclesial declaration to be 
made at this time. As always in similar 
cases, the Church recommends great 
caution in forming judgments and ad- 
vises against any speculation on the 
causes or possible significance of the 

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reported events." 

This guarded view was not shared 
by the priest at the tiny Coptic Church 
of St. George in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. 
"If it's not a miracle," queries Father 
Mina K. Yanni, a jolly figure in black 
robes and a round black hat, "how 
could the oil have gotten there? It's a 
message from St. Mary who wants all 
people to be one." 

Father Yanni gestured toward a mid- 
dle-aged woman with a wide smile and 
hair the color of sunstruck copper who 
was standing in front of- the icon at the 
upstairs altar "Talk to her," he said. 
"She's Roman Catholic but she comes 
here everyday." 

"I can't help it. I love her. She's so 
beautiful," the woman agrees, her ac- 
cent vintage Brooklynese. Painted on 
metal in gentle hues of blue and white 
and tan, the icon depicts the Madonna 
looming up between two church tow- 
ers. Her elaborate gold halo and her 
pose, downcast in private supplication, 
look Byzantine but her face is distinctly 
Western, as pale and delicate as a 
porcelain doll. 

Looks can be deceiving. Father 
Yanni leads the way to his office. He 
holds out a notebook that contains 
handwritten accounts of personal 
miracles attributed to the weeping' 

Madonna, including the amazing story 

of a man who- experienced relief from 
the pain of his sciatica after he rubbed 
his back with a cotton ball dipped in 
the oily tears. 

I point out the results of a recent 
test, conducted with 'the blessings of 
the Church itself, before the icon's drip- 
ping oil had disappeared: The "holy" 
liquid had been a form of vegetable oil, 
it had been determined. Could it be, I 
ask Father Yanni, that he has been the 
victim of fraud? 

He doesn't agree. "I am not a victim 
of fraud," he tells me. "I saw it with my 
own eyes. This was a miracie." 

Yet investigator Joe Nickell, author 
of Looking for a Miracle (Prometheus) 
and a member of CSICOP, has 
amassed plenty ot proof that the fraud 
theory may hold water (not oil), after all. 
"Approximately one hundred percent of 
claims of weeping icons are pious 
hoaxes," says Nickell. "There are 
dozens of ways it can be done but the 
simplest and most common way is just 
to apply fluid. A person pretends to 
brush the tears away and they just 
apply more. Oil may be used instead of 
water because it lasts longer." 

Moreover, Nickell says he has tried 
repeatedly to meet and examine the 
phenomenon surrounding Father 

Bruse. "I sent mi^iv- ;-.;iic-;r missive and 
got no reply," says Nickell. "There was 
no independent outside investigation of 
any of that phenomenon. They refused 
to let a team from CSICOP isolate the 
weeping statue so we could see if it 
wept if it was under guard. The whole 
thing, including the stigmata, is ex- 
tremely suspicious. 

"If someone alleges a miracle, the 
burden of proof is on them," says Nick- 
ell. "But they won't let outside investi- 
gators examine the statues and the 
stigmata. Why?" 

While Nickell concedes that some 
apparition-related phenomena may be 
illusion rather than flat-out hoax (aim a 
Polaroid One-Step into the sun and you 
may get a photo of a "golden door"), 
he is horrified at the gullible group- 
think that dominates apparition sites 
like Marlboro. "I call it the 'Medjugorje 
virus,'" he laughs. "It's a social conta- 
gion, and it can be frightening." 

What's frightening about this phe- 
nomenon according to Nickell and 
other critics is the sometimes savage 
way believers fend off skeptical inquiry. 
"Credulity does not diminish with edu- 
cation," says Nickell. "People like the 
parishioners at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton 
Church may be educated to be very 
exacting and skeptical in their work, 


cause of controversy, a controversy 

which extends to the very existence of 
the object in question. Like God, the 
UFO divides our society into believers 
and nonbelievers, cautious hopefuls 
and equally cautious agnostics. But 
whether we beiieve in the UFO or not, 
its presence in our culture clearly has a 
great deal to tell us about ourselves — 
about where we are as a species and 
where we are going. This kind of cul- 
tural observation does not rule out the 
possibility that UFOs really do exist, nor 
does it require such existence. It 
merely asks what we can learn from 
the phenomenon regarding the current 
state of human civilization. 

While the biological and metaphysi- 
cal explanations vary and contradict 
one another, there seems to be at least 
one constant about our nature as 
human beings — and that is that we are 
not alone. We have a drive toward 
wholeness and completion which is ap- 
parent in everything we do. For in- 
stance, we join together in intimate 
union — and produce a new 
whole, the child, We live in 
groups because we can ac- 
complish more together than 
a single individual ever could. 
Even our intellectual history is 
one of endless struggle to 
make what we. know of the 
world fit into a larger pattern 
of significance. 

But our desire for unity and 
completion is, perhaps, 
nowhere more clearly ex- 
pressed than in our need for 
religious experience or under- 
standing. Derived from the Latin religia, 
which means to reconnect, religion is 
the process by which we strive to link 
ourselves to the divine or cosmic order 
of things. Similarly, salvare, to save, 
originally meant to make whole. Salva- 
tion, the ultimate aim of religion, is the 
moment of reconnection — with God, 
with Christ, with the Universe, with the 
Sublime, it is a moment of mystery and 
reverence, terror and fulfillment. It is the 
experience of connection, touching, 
and becoming a part of something 
alien — something outside of us and 
very different. 

Whatever the physical reality of 
UFOs and aliens may be, it is easy to 
see the religious dimensions of the 
phenomena. Carl Jung, as early as the 
1950s, noted the resemblance of flying 
saucers to the mandala, an ancient 
symbol of wholeness and salvation. 
More recently, tales of abduction and 
alien encounters suggest that finding 
the Other — a being from beyond — con- 
nects these experiences to our under- 
lying religious need for contact which 

66 OMNI 

transcends the daily intercourse of 
human existence. 

This said, it is necessary to point out 
how the symbolism surrounding the 
UFO phenomenon differs from other 
types of religious symbolism. At least in 
its original form, the UFO was a ma- 
chine, a technological artifact. While 
the technology which it embodies may " 
be far in advance of our own, it is, 
nonetheless, something which beings 
like ourselves might eventually be able 
to create. The UFO literature is full of 
stories of attempts by the government 
to "reverse engineer" UFO propulsion 
systems. If only we could get our 
hands on a piece of their equipment, 
then, well, with a little bit of Yankee in- 
genuity. . , . Similarly the aliens — even 
as their "otherness" has intensified 
over the years and they have mani- 
fested such paranormal powers as the 
ability to walk through walls, to levitate, 
and so on — have remained finite, hu- 
manoid beings who have real limita- 
tions and who, in some inscrutable 





way, seem to need us as much as we 
need them. 

All this suggests that we humans 
are beginning to see ourselves as real 
participants in the process of creating 
unity and organization. Where older 
myths regarded humanity as the play- 
thing of the gods, or as the essentially 
powerless subject of a transcendent 
divine sovereign, the myth which has 
emerged around the UFO treats hu- 
manity as a real partner in the creation 
of a cosmic society. The scientific and 
technological advances of the postwar 
period brought wfth them grave dan- 
gers to be sure. But they also made it 
possible, for the first time, for humanity 
to end its garthbound existence, to visit 
the heavens and return to tell of the 
journey, and to imagine someday, on 
our own efforts and through our own 
merits, to become citizens of the great 
heavenly city. 

There have, however, been a num- 
ber of distinct — and even mutually op- 
posed — reactions to the- mythic char- 
acter of the UFO phenomenon. It is 

to distinguish among these re- 
sponses along three distinct axes, 
There are "those who believe that the 
UFO comes to us, whether from an r 
other star system or another dimen- 
sion, and those who regard it as merely 
a product of the collective psyche. 
There are those who interpret the phe- 
nomenon in language which is drawn 
from the scientific tradition, even as 
they stretch the limits of official sci- 
ence, and those who express open 
hostility to the scientific establishment. 
Finally, there are those who see in the 
UFO a sign of hope and a catalyst for 
growth, and those who sense some- 
thing evil and profoundly destructive. 
. The dominant response to the UFO 
in the larger culture has been one of 
tentative, hopeful anticipation. Broad 
layers of the population either believe, 
or want desperately to believe, that the 
UFO represents the real presence of a 
superior technological force, probably 
from another star system, interaction with 
which is a catalyst for human social 
(and spiritual) progress. 
This trend is connected to 
a fascination with the "new 
science," with unified field 
theories and complex sys- 
tems theory, "holistic" biol- 
ogy and ecology— disci- 
plines which are pushing 
us beyond the old world- 
view which regarded the 
universe as a system of ex- 
ternally related atoms, to- 
ward an understanding of 
the "relationality," holism, 
and self-organizing char- 
acter of the universe. There is, at the 
same time, a desire to respect scien- 
tific norms, and to avoid explanations 
which lack scientific credibility. 

Probably the clearest and most 
powerful expression of this vision came 
not from the UFO movement at all, but 
rather from Steven Spielberg, whose 
two films, Close Encounters of the Third 
Kind, and E.T. both articulated and 
gave iorm to powerful popular images 
of the phenomenon. In Close Encoun- 
ters, a series of UFO sightings disrupts 
the stifling routine of small-town life and 
the loveless marriage of a utility com- 
pany worker, drawing him and a new- 
found companion into the Wyoming 
wilderness for an encounter with 
benevolent aliens whose mother ship 
descends from the skies like a techno- 
logical New Jerusalem. He is chosen 
over the best and the brightest to ac- 
company the aliens on a journey into 
the heavens. The score by John 
Williams is a clear expression of the 
cultural myth at work in these films. 
Built around a series of complex and 

often highly abshacl variations on the 
theme from Pinocchio, it relies on a 
common cosmic connection echoed in 
the refrain, When you wish upon a 
star/Makes no difference who you are. 

Moving out from this mythic center, 
there are two other trends which see 
the UFD as a sign, or at least an ex- 
pression, of hope, but differ in their atti- 
tude toward official science — and thus 
in their willingness to regard the phe- 
nomenon as objectively real. On the 
one side are the secular, humanistic 
skeptics closely aligned with official 
science, such as the cosmological 
principles championed by Carl Sagan. 
These skeptics share the UFOIogists' 
quest for an inhabited universe, but re- 
gard UFOIogy as little better than a 
modern superstition. Contact, when ft 
comes, will be in binary code and will 
be received by a large radio telescope 
operated by a consortium of universi- 
ties. The message will be interpreted 
by an interdisciplinary team of scien- 
tists and conveyed to the secretary 
general of the United Nations. 

The hard science approach here, 
however, is not devoid of a sense of 
awe at the vastness of the undertaking 
of establishing contact. Keith Thomp- 
son, while conducting research for his 
book, Angels and Aliens, visited with a 

scentist working on the SETI proiec: in 
the California desert. "He was a Har- 
vard Ph.D. -type, cream of the crop," 
Thompson recalls, "and he sat there 
and told me with an almost religious 
kind of astonishment, how many chan- 
nels they had open, and how much of 
the heavens they were searching." 

At the other end of the spectrum are 
those who reject more or less com- 
pletely, or are willing to ignore, the lim- 
its of official science. Rather, these 
believers borrow scientific concepts to 
explain social psychological phenom- 
ena. David Stupple, in an article pub- 
lished shortly after his untimely death in 
1983, documented the continuities be- 
tween the Theosophical movement and 
the UFO coniactee and channeling 
cults which developed in the 1950s 
and 1960s. Not infrequently UFO 
groups in the theosophical tradition will 
see themselves as drawing out the im- 
plications of new developments in rela- 
tivity and quantum mechanics. Much of 
what Charles Spiegel, currently director 
of the Unarius Educational Foundation, 
says — phrases such as "The universe 
is an inner-dimensional energy sys- 
tem," or 'The mind is a giant computei 
running off of this system," of "We mis- 
uncersiand the universe if we think 
only of the finite factors of the infinite 

creative intelligence" — sounds sur- 
prisingly like popular accounts which 
treat the philosophical implications of 
the new physics. 

The bibliographies of Unarius tracts 
are filled with references te Desqartes 
Spinoza, and Einstein. Indeed, Dr. 
Spiegel, who received his degree in 
psychic therapeutic science from the 
Unarius Academy of Science, wrote his 
doctoral dissertation on the political 
structure of the Interplanetary Confed- 
eration which had been transmitted to 
him by the chief scientist Alta of the 
planet Vixail. He informed me that his 
immediate predecessor, Unarius co- 
founder Ruth E. Norman, had recently 
made her "transition" to a nonatomic 
state where she functions as the 
archangel Uriel. One Unarius film de- 
picts the trials of an aborigine con- 
tactee who suffers persecution at the 
hands of his tribe's high priest whose 
name, interestingly enough, just hap- 
pens to be"Seti." 

More recently, theosophical con- 
tactee and channeling cults have given 
way to New Age interpretations of the 
phenomenon which are less auda- 
ciously offensive to a scientifically 
trained audience, but perhaps even 
more profoundly at odds with the whole 
scientific enterprise than their theo- 
sophical predecessors. Ethnobotanist 
and psilocybin guru Terence McKenna 
writes in his book, The Archaic Revival, 
that "the UFO is an idea intended to 
confound science, because science 
has begun to threaten the existence of 
the planet. At this point a shock is nec- 
essary for the culture, a shock equiva- 
lent to the shock of the resurrection on 
Roman imperialism " This shock is 
being applied by the "overmind ... a 
level of hierarchic control being ex- 
erted on the human species as a 
whole. . , . Our destiny is not ours to 
decide. It is in the hands of a weirdly 
democratic, ameboid,; hyperintei igent 
superorganism that is called Every- 
body." Where the technophiles sock 
wholeness in a continuation of the sci- 
entific project of our own civilization, 
the New Age movement rejects the 
whole enterprise of rational knowledge 
and technocratic control in favor of a 
religion centered on the maxim "let go 
and let the UFO." 

This theme of letting go has also 
found resonance among evangelically 
oriented abductees. Betty Andreasson 
Luca,.the subject of several books by 
UFO investigator Raymond Fowler, told 
me that her abducdon expediences had 
taught her "how real God is and how 
he is in control of all things." Even 
those abductees who regard their ex- 
perience as a catalyst for growth report 

initial fear and resistance which they 
overcome only through what amounts 
to an act of religious submission to 
their captors. Whitley Strieber repeat- 
edly challenges the right of his captors 
to abduct him and perform medical op- 
erations without his consent. Their 
reply: "We have the right." It is only 
after he has accepted this that he is 
able to come to. terms with the experi- 
ence and learn from it. 

Not everyone, however, sees in the 
UFO a sign of hope. Once again the 
original, and perhaps definitive, per- 
ception in this regard comes from pop- 
ular culture rather than the UFO 
movement itselt. Ever since the publi- 
cation of H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds 
and Orson Welles' famous broadcast of 
the same, we have had a fascination 
with alien invasion. We are desperately 
afraid that we are being taken over by 
a force more powerful than ourselves, 
the motives and modus operandi of 
which are too complex to be apparent 
to merely human reason. 

The notion that the phenomenon is 
somehow malevolent cuts across the 
lines between technophile and techno- 
phobe, and even across the lines be- 
tween believer and nonbeiiever. Visions 
of a technological New Jerusalem find 
their counterpart in an emerging coun- 

termyth of secret invasion by gray 
aliens from Zeta Rettculi, who are 
breeding hybrids in underground 
bases hidden beneath the mountains 
of New Mexico. Colorado, and Arizona. 
This countermyth has found resonance 
both among abductees who. far from 
feeling healed and challenged by their 
experiences, are more inclined to say 
that they have been raped and vio- 
lated, and among political conspiracy 
theorists convinced there is a history of 
secret contact between the aliens and 
a secret government centered in a 
high-level group known as the MJ-12. 

One partisan of the Reticulian inva- 
sion hypothesis is physicist John E. 
Brandenburg, who claims to have 
worked on directed energy weapons 
and other space defense projects. He 
says that the "Star Wars" program in 
which he served was actually intended 
as a defense against the Reticulian in- 
vasion. His prescription: "God, GUTS, 
and Guns." GUTS refers to the Grand 
Unified Theory of Science which he 
hopes will "allow us to control gravity 
with electromagnetism." He has also 
proposed a "Rainbow Declaration" 
which declares that "on all matters con- 
cerning extraterrestrial peoples," the 
nations of the earth "shall be as one." 

The theme of political conspiracy, 

however, is not confined to those who 
believe we are actually undergoing a 
secret alien invasion. William Cooper, 
author of Behold the Pale Horse, is a' 
former naval intelligence officer who, 
like several former. military intelligence 
and defense research personnel, 
claims to have been shown documents 
relating to government contact with ex- 
traterrestrials. Originally he, too, took 
the documents at face value. Gradu- 
ally, however, he came to the conclu- 
sion that the phenomenon is one great 
big hoax, "exclusively of human ori- 
gin .. . designed to bring into being 
One World government." The religious 
overtones of the phenomenon are all 
part of the plot. One World government 
requires a New Age One World reli- 
gion. Mr. Cooper, whose answering 
machine informs callers that they have 
reached something called the "Intelli- 
gence Service," traces this conspiracy 
back to John Dewey who, according to 
Cooper, noted that the prospect of ex- 
traterrestrial invasion might serve to 
unify earth's warring nations. The con- 
spiracy, so the argument goes, is pro- 
moted by a secret government which 
includes the Trilateral Commission, the 
Council on Foreign Relations, and 
other organizations. 



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o. For mots information, calf 1-BD0- 

They say no man ever died of an idea. 
Maybe not. But plenty have died for ideas, 
and I know from the family genealogy that 
my own ancestors helped contribute to that 
sorry state of affairs. 

That wasn't what I or any of us were 
thinking as we plummeted through the floor 
of the Cenozoic Era and crashed into 
Reptile City. Down through the time of great 
dying into the Cretaceous, down past the 
king of the tyrant lizards and straight toward 
the Jurassic. Whoever had rigged the 
chronometers on the central panel of the 
time machine hadn't paid much attention to 
George Pal's version of Wells. No Victorian 
elegance here. It was like watching a bunch 
of VCR clocks being reset after a power 
crunch. About as exciting, too. The digital 
readouts flickered backward. Only the 
bone-cracking vibration told us physically 
that the machine was out of control. 

Rick Haugen turned toward the rest of us 
from the right-hand seat. "Captainl I canna 
hold her together!" He was such a wise-ass, 
even then. The 
Scottish brogue 
wasn't even that 

At the time, I 
wasn't paying 
much attention 
to Rick's humor or bravado or however the 
hell it should be defined, i just stared, fixed 
on the unspooling millennia, and wondered 
if it would hurt. Dying, that is. 

This was like riding an elevator car 
uncontrolled and unbraked down an infinite 
elevator shaft. I knew something had to be 
at the bottom, but I wasn't quite sure what. 
All I knew was that we weren't going to stop 
at our floor, that floor being the time of the 
Permian extinction and the great Pangaean 

But I didn't count on Mary, 

Mary Clarke was the senior scientist in 
charge, and she got to occupy the seat 
beside Rick. Mary was a great theoretical 
physicist, but I had to help her reset her 
digital watch after the spring time-change. 

"Dear Jesus, oh God, please save us!" 
That was Lacey — she turned livid when I 
called her "the girl from the office" — in the 
seat beside me. She gripped my left wrist in 
her right hand, and I thought her fingers 
were beginning to fracture the small bones 
beneath my wristwatch. 

On Lacey's other side, Chuck Furtado 
abruptly screamed. It keened high and thin, 




FICTION By much tike, 1 imagined, a scurrying mammal 

EDWARD BRYANT cau 9 nt under an allosaur's claw. 

Mary ("No finer theoretician" — New 
Scientist) played her-fingers across the 
console like a virtuoso concert pianist. 
Nothing in our plunge changed. Out of 
frustration, she brought her hand up over 
her head, fingers convulsing, and slammed 
the fist down on the control panel. The crash 
echoed in our enclosed, bathroom-like 
space. There were no sparks — that's only 
for science-fiction thrillers. 
But something happened. 
The rate of vibration changed. It was like 
deep dentai drilling when the guy with the 
tools gets all the decay out and slacks off on 
the machine controls. I smelled something 
burning, even as, somewhere deep In my 
gut, I felt our collective reality change. 

The chronometers didn't seem to be 
reading out quite as fast. I saw a few green 
lights on the board, but couldn't tell what 
they signified. 

And then we crashed. It was fine dentist's 
dritt again. Com- 
bined with shov- 
ing the head of 
your hard-drive 
straight into 
a disk rotating 
at high speed. 
Reeeeeoowww-— the scream ripping at my 
insides began to scour the inner lining of 
my skull. 

Rick kept yelling into the communicator 
mike plugged into his ear. "Mayday! Do you 
copy, HarriKon Base? Mayday! Mayday! 
We're crashing somewhere in the 

And then I blacked out. 
But not before i heard Lacey, or maybe it 
was me, say, "I love you." 

I woke to the smell of sulfur, the sight of 
cascading sparks rolling down torn sheet 
metal, and the sound of frying circuit 
boards. If it wasn't hell, it was close enough 
I was still strapped into my seat, but the seat 
itself was canted forward so that I was 
looking down into something I couldn't a: 
first identify, It looked like a bowl of rec 
meat. Then I realized it was the top of Rick 
Haugen's head with a large circle of bone 
removed, I wanted to vomit, but also knew I 
didn't want to throw up into my colleague's 
skuil cavity. I swallowed it all. 
PAINTING BY sound returned and I realized I hadn't 

ERNST FliCHS registered its absence. "Robert? Robert, 










can you hear me?" Someone punched 
me in the arm and 1 jerked away irrita- 
bly. "Robert, I think you're in shock. 
Otherwise are you okay?" 

I twisted my head to the side. My 
neck hurt. Lacey had gotten out of her 
seat and was standing balanced on a 
red-striped case of medical supplies. 
She hit me again. 

"I'm okay," I said, "Just stunned. 
Don't slug me again." 

She grabbed me in a clumsy em- 
brace and started to cry, her dark, 
curly hair crushing against my face. 
The familiar smell of shampoo and al- 
mond conditioner took away some of 
the sulfur stench. 

"Hey, hold on," I said. "Help me 
down from the seat. I can't do anything 
trapped up here." 

"Jesus," she said. "Jesus, give me 
strength." When I tripped the safety 
buckles, I slumped down against her 
and she helped break my fall toward 
the wreckage scattered below. 

"Thanks," I said, and got off her. I 
helped her up. 

"Rick's hurt bad," Lacey — 

I glanced at the partial de- 
capitation. "I think he's dead." 

"No, I'm not." It was Rick's 
voice, like a message wafting 
up out of a grave. 

"Mercy," Lacey said, and 
something ! thought might 
have been "Lazarus . . ." 

"Hey, I got the rest of him." 
The new voice was Chuck 
Furtado's. The systems ana- 
lyst held up something that 
looked like a toupee. 

"I'm supposed to be Bones, not 
Captain Kirk," said Rick's funereal tone. 

My own mind was spinning. "Who's 
got the best medic training?" 

"Me," said Rick, "but I figure this is 
way beyond what I can handle." His 
chuckle sounded like death, "I'm the 
rock star, remember? Geology's my 
bag. Neurosurgery in a mirror isn't my 
idea of a good time. I wouldn't know 
my right hemisphere from my left." 

"It's not going to be neurosurgery," I 
said. "Just some sewing." 

Rick let out a ghastly groan. Lacey 
put one hand on his left shoulder, 
stretched her arm to reach his right 
shoulder. I could see she wasn't look- 
ing at his ruined head. But her lips 
moved silently. Prayer, no doubt. 

"Mary," Hurtado said. "Mary's the 
other medic. Where'd she go?" 

I finally looked around us. We were 
all on a slight slope that steepened 
rapidly into a rugged lava wall. The 
time machine wasn't in terrific shape, 
and mainly lay crumpled in ragged 

sections. It looked to me like we'd ma- 
tonal, zed about twenty feet in the air, 
and then just dropped to the rough 
rock surface. The image in my head 
was what would have happened had 
the Apollo lander run out of fuel about 
ten meters above Tranquility Base. 

At least we had air, -though the at-_ 
mosphere wasn't terrific. 

On cue, a wind-bank of sulfurous 
fumes rolled through our crash site. My 
eyes burned and started to water. All 
my sinus cavities seemed to close off 
like waterproof doors on the Titanic. 
With about the same effect. 

There was a yellowish halflight illu- 
minating everything, but I couldn't tell 
whether it was all the crap in the air, or 
it was just close to sundown. There 
wasn't much to be seen of the sky, I 
heard rolling concussive sounds that 
sounded like distant detonations. 

"I think my back's broken, too," said 
Rick. Chuck and I exchanged looks. 
Lacey put her hands together in an atti- 
tude of prayer. 







"Yeah," I said. "Where the hell's 
Mary?" Then I realized that it wasn't just 
the senior scientist who was missing. 
Her seat was gone too. Ragged holes 
in the floor of the control area showed 
where the bolts had torn loose. 

The terrain dropped severely away 
on that side of the wreckage. Lacey 
stayed with Rick. Chuck Furtado and I 
stared gingerly over the side of what 
looked ever more like a real precipice. 

"Don't look good." 

I nodded agreement. "We ought to 
check downslope. Just in case." 

"I think we got some rope some- 
where," said Furtado. He turned back 
toward -he time machine. 

"Never mind," I said. I had seen a 
glitter of aluminum along with a flash of 
blue jumpsuit about ten feet down. It 
was all obscured by the deepening 
shadows and the rough-edged juts oi 
cooled black lava. 

"You first?" said Furtado. 

"Okay." I started down the slope. I 
felt my fingers slip on the stone. When I 
looked, I saw the blood. Mine. The rock 

was so edged, I could have snavca 
with it. 

The rough part was after we got to 
Mary. "Whoo-ee," said Furtado, "she's 
messed up pretty bad." But she was 
alive. Air whistled in and out of the bub- 
bling wound where her teeth had been. 
"We can't just leave her." 

I wasn't so sure about that, since it 
didn't look to me like she was going to 
be alive more than a matter of minutes. 
I touched her throat below the relo- 
cated line of her jaw and wasn't sure I 
could even feel a pulse. 

Furtado crossed himself and his lips 
moved like he was uttering a prayer. I 
doubted it would work for him any bet- 
ter than for Lacey. Old man Harrison 
had presided over a prayer breakfast 
and a solemn ceremony to invoke 
God's protection upon the time ma- 
chine. I could hear the snap and pop 
of cooling wreckage above us. Obvi- 
ously the metaphysical fix hadn't been 
in, But then secular engineering had 
presumably failed us, too. 

"Whatever you think'll 
work," I said. I sighed and 
made up my mind. "Okay, 
let's get her back up the 
hill." We decided to leave 
Mary in her chair since she 
was already strapped tight 
and the stressed aluminum 
made a perfectly good lit- 
ter. Furtado and I wrestled 
the chair into place. Then I 
waited while the systems 
analyst scrambled back to 
the wreckage and found 
the rope. He tossed a loop 
down to me and 1 secured it around 
Mary's headrest. 

Then, with Furtado pulling from 
above and me shoving from below, we 
manhandled chair and dying woman 
back to level ground. 

Lacey left Rick to come and hover 
over our leader. 'What can we do?" she 
said, smoothing Mary's blood-soaked 
hair back irom her eyes. 
"Mot much," I said-. 
"Pray," said Furtado. 
Lacey prayed, lips moving silently. 
Mary said something. Her eyes 
ITckered open, stared, and she spoke 
again, some of which I could make out 
as I bent close. " — they come?" she 

"Who?" I said. 

"From base," said Mary. "Did they 
come right — " She coughed up bright 
red blood. " — right after we crashed?" 
"Sorry," I answered. "No one came." 
"Then they're not . . ." Mary closed 
her eyes. "They can't find us, or 
maybe — " She coughed harder, 
painful, wracking. " — they all died at 

the other end." 

"What do you mean?" Said Lacey. 
"Won't they come for us?" 

Mary didn't say anything. So far as I 
could tell, she was dead now. I couldn't 
hear her breath bubbling through the 
thicker blood. "What she meant," I said 
to Lacey, "is thai any time-traveling res- 
cue party would have shown up about 
ten seconds after we crashed. That's 
the neat thing about time travel." 

"But they didn't." 

I shook my head. "Chances are, 
they' won't." 

Chuck Furtado spoke up. "Whatever 
knocked us out of the time stream 
might have just been a bounce from 
some event up at HarriKon Base. 
Mary's right. They might all be dead." 

"They can't be," said Lacey. She 
stared at me. "Nobody would know." 

Nobody would know. She was right. 
This whole mission had been clandes- 
tine. Old man Harrison — damn his 
Christian soul and his Libertarian head 
for commerce — hadn't wanted a word 
of this leaked to the government. He 
remembered all too well the cold fusion 
flap. And if time travel turned out to be 
a viable process, he wanted to make 
damned sure the HarriKon Corporation 
had its hooks sunk firmly in long before 
theD.O.D.gotwindof it. 

So we were on our own. Nobody 
knows. All the permutations of Lacey's 
somber words echoed in my head. At 
this point, I figured the four of us were 
about as lost as human beings ever 
had been. And maybe ever would be. 

We unstrapped Mary Clarke's body 
from the control chair and wrapped her " 
in plastic sheeting that had protected 
some of the crated supplies. We set 
her on the downwind side of the crash 
site. Then we set about building shel- 
ter, since it was getting cold. Furtado 
and I constructed a minimal lean-to 
around Rick Haugen's chair. He made 
it clear he didn't want to be moved. 

Then I held the battery lamp while 
Furtado took Rick's hands — not that it 
would make any difference because of 
his paralysis — and Lacey sewed the 
top of his head back on. I don't know 
why we did it. Probably it would have 
been just as practical to cover his cra- 
nium with plastic wrap, but it seemed 
like the right thing to do. 

Rick didn't feel much of it, but every 
once in a while, as Lacey drew a 
threaded knot tight, he would jerk from 
the shoulders up and cry out. Lacey 
echoed his cry with a little sob, then 
brought the needle around for another 
pass. It seemed to take forever, but 

Naturally it was only after The sswSng 
session that I found the drug-case. I 
gave Rick a jolt of painkiller and he fi- 
nally nodded off, 

"Save, some for us," said Furtado, 
looking like he was trying to smile 

"I expect we'll need it soon 
enough." I put the case down by some 
of the other stores. 

"You want to know where we are?" I 
glanced back at Chuck Furtado. He 
hunched over what looked like one of 
our laptops. Battery power. 

"I think I can guess," I said. "Within 
a hundred million years or so." 

"You're being a smart ass," said Fur- 
tado. "Listen up. When I said where, I 
meant it." 

"Probably pretty close to where we 

"Allow for a little precessive drift, but 
you're pretty much right." Furtado 
tapped the keys a few more times and 
squinted at the 'screen. He rattled off 
some coordinates. 

"Okay," I said. "Wyoming, The 
southwestern desert. Rock Springs?" 

"Thereabouts. We're about in the 
middle of the Green — well, what'll be 
the Green River Formation." 


I N 


True enough. A ways — a long 
ways — up the line in the Eocene, this 
would all be under water, The Green 
River Formation held one of the biggest 
deposits of iossil fish in the world. The 
layer was a half-mile thick and con- 
tained something like 12 billion fish. 
After Jurassic Park had rekindled pub- 
lic interest in the very distant past, en- 
trepreneurs, with the blessing of the 
state, had started mining fossil fish for 
the collecting trade. It was a boom 
market. But beneath the vertebrate fish 
laye's ofhe". older Iroastres waited. 

At the rate things were going, we'd 
probably be among them. 

"You two want some supper?" I said 
to Furtado and Lacey. 

"Don't forget me," said the mostly 
inert Haugen. Already fossilizing, but 
still hungry. 

At first it was almost completely black 
after darkness fell. I could see no stars 
because of the smoke and cloud 
cover. To the side — and I had no way of 
knowing what compass direction that 
was, just that it was neither up- nor 
downhill — I could see a dull orange 
glow at an indistinct distance. I 
guessed it was volcanic activity, 

Before dusk, the smoky curtains 
had parted briefly and I thought I'd 
seen some greenery maybe a klick or 
two distant. If there were lurking 
carnosaurs, they weren't making their 
presence obvious; I suspected they re- 
ally wouldn't spend a hell of a lot of 
time foraging too close to neighboring 

Since there seemed to be no imme- 
diately apparent life apart from us, we 
finally decided to try to sleep without 
the need of a sentry. There weren't 
even any insects in evidence. Smart 
bugs. We each had a lightweight ther- 
mal blanket and a rolled towel we 
could use as a pillow. Chuck Furtado 
curled up close to the feet of the now- 
snoring Rick. Lacey and I prepared our 
bed a dozen feet away. 

The corporation would never have 
allowed lovers to be assigned to this 
pioneer expedition, but then they never 
knew. Who would have expected a ro- 
mantic liaison between one of Mr. Har- 
rison's most trusted aides and some 
scuzzy contract paleo jock? The ro- 
mantic and the realist, the skeptic and 
the devout. Who would have thought it? 

It had to be chemicals. Phero- 
mones. I don't know. 

We'd spent weeks circling each 
other like wolves. It was clear we had 
nothing in common. She thought Amy 
Grant had sold out, I played Ministry 
discs in the lab and didn't- bother with 
headphones. We made a great deal of 

iigl'lhoai'tec scon esca ating to out- 
right nasty— fun of each other. 

She even said outright at one point 
that I was surely well on the way to ex- 
clusion from the ranks of the rirjiieous 
and could count on spending my own 
great extinction in hell. Hell. She 
capped it in her memos. Like it was a 
Fodor destination. 

The problem was, Lacey had soft, 
curly hair I wanted to feel tucked up 
under my chin while I touched the 
length of her firm little body with the 
rest of me. It was only a few minutes 
after first laying eyes on her at an orien- 
tation seminar that I knew I wanted a 
laying on of hands. And much more, I 
figured old man Harrison would look 
dimly on one of his recent scholarly ac- 
quisitions opting to follow his dick 
rather than tracing his favorite fossils 
back to the Permian. Probably I should 
have stuck with the fossils. But I didn't. 

And Lacey . . . Well, Lacey risked 
both summary firing and damnation for 

The first time we made love, Lacey 
spent an hour in fervid prayer, begging 
absolution from God. After that, though, 
she loosened up quite a lot, though 
when we spent time together she 
tended to keep tight hold of the stauro- 
lite cross she wore around her neck. 
That cruciform Georgia stone, Lacey 
enjoyed pointing out, had been cre- 
ated by God. Dark brown, it looked like 
blood. I don't think she ever took the 
silver necklace off. Lacey uncon- 
sciously polished the dull stone be- 
tween thumb and index finger. It 
reminds me of home, she'd say when I 
reminded her of the mannerism. Home 
was Conyers, distant even among At- 
lanta's more remote suburbs. Lacey 
told me about the old part of Conyers, 
and the railway station converted into a 
community theater; but the tracks were 
still active, and so the actors had to 
freeze in place during performances 
when the trains passed. 

I don't know why I loved her. It 
wasn't just her body, though that al- 
ways cxci.ed me nightiiy. There had to 
be something in the reality that she 
possessed things I never could have, 
and maybe the opposite was also true 
for her. I had no roots— not since I left 
home — no real sense of where I was, 
or had been, or was going. Lacey, on 
the other hand, had a plan, and a past. 
And even if my lips and my arms and 
my dick were a profound distraction, 
her life still had a solid structure of 
which I could only dream. 

She'd told me about pine and 
kudzu, red clay and dogwood— Looks 
like a blizzard, come the spring. Once I 
had visited her at home. I felt the 

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breeze. I saw all the yards full ol dogs, 
pickups, refrigerators and junked cars. 

Lacey ducked her head down 
below trie edge of the thermal blanket 
and tucked up against my neck and 
upper chest, Her words were muffled 
as she shivered. "Robert, He'll save us. 
I know He will. But in the meantime, I 
don't mind admitting it. I'm scared to 

I could tell those capped letters in 
her voice and knew she wasn't talking 
about our boss at HarriKon. I kissed 
the top of her head, flashing a quick 
image of Rick's hair, and tried to forgot 
it. I twisted my neck a little and kissed 
Lacey's ear, her cheek. "It'll work out," I 
said, but I knew better. Where we were 
marooned, I didn't give any of us any 
odds on living much beyond the week, 
maybe two. 

"Tomorrow morning," said Lacey. 
"We can fix up some sort of fitter or 
travois. We can take turns carrying 

"Where are we going to go?" I said. 

"We can walk out of here. There 
have to be people, there must be 

"There are no other people," I said. 
"This is the beginning of the Creta- 
ceous, maybe the end of the Jurassic. 

"There are people," said Lacey in- 
sistently. ■ 

I tried io clamp down on it, but felt 
the flash of anger. "This isn't 4004 B.C., 
kiddo. There are no people out there. 
Just dinosaurs, and that's about it." 

Lacey was silent for a moment. 
Then she said, "God. created man 
when He created dinosaurs, Both must ' 
exist out there. The people may be 
primitive, but I'm sure they will help us 
if we behave peaceably." 

"God damn it!" Lacey stiffened. I 
said, "Can the creationist tripe! There 
are no people. We're them. We're all 
there is on this baby Earth." 

"They were found," said Lacey. 
"They found fossil evidence of people 
along with the dinosaurs." 

"No," I said. "That was all a hoax. Or 
if it wasn't, it was sloppy research and 
■■.■vi? thinking." 

"You're wrong," There was a pro- 
found sureness and strength in her 

"No, you are." I don't know what 
filled mine. 

She looked up at me and I looked 
down at her. Sparks could have 
jumped the gap. I kissed her and her 
lips responded. There was no-stopping 
after that. We both needed comfort and 
reassurance that something was slill 'a- 

miliar. :Ve botn ncocod Ihc warmth, the 
heat. Lacey was just wearing her long 
ORU teeshirt and I worked it up above 
her breasts. She moaned and put her 
small hands around me. And as I en- 
tered her, I thought I heard Lacey whis- 
ker again. "You're wrong." 

The last thing I'd rememberer:; before 
slamming down into a broken slumber 
was the small scream as Lacey came. 
The first thing I heard as I fell out of 
sleep was another scream. This one 
wailed with fear, not pleasure, fear and 
pain and the knowledge that death 
stsiked close by 

I came awake blinking, irying to ex- 
tricate myself from the tangle that was 
Lacey and the thermal blankets, and 
saw death was indeed standing above 
Chuck Furtado, Against a hellish light 
that presumably was an eastern sun- 
rise, a saw-toothed silhouette bent 
down and nipped at the man on the 
ground. It was bipedal and quick, a 
head higher than man-sized, and then I 
saw the scythelike claw behind each 
ruscular log. Fo.' (he barest moment I 
admired the slock biological engineer- 
ing of the deinonychus — remember, I 
had never before seen a dinosaur in 
the flesh — and then I tried to confront 
the predator that planned to breakfast 
on the systems analyst. 

"Get away, you son of a bitch!" I 
screamed. I knew we had ooth a Rem- 
ington pump-gun and a 30.06 hunting 
rifle packed somewhere in the sup- 
plies. 1 didn't know where. There was a 
steel bracket that had come off the 
control panel down by my foot. I 
picked it up, whirled it around my 
head, and hurled it as hard as I could 
at the deinonychus. It was luck, not 
skill. The bracket slammed into the 
side of the reptile's jaw, but it drew the 
creature's attention for a few moments. 
Then, as though deliberately malign, 
ignoring me totally, the deinonychus 
rurneb back to Furtado, raised its ngh". 
foot, and sliced down through fhe 
man's abdomen. Chuck Furtado 
screamed one more time, The cry sank 
to a moan, then nothing. 

The deinonychus snapped at the air 
and looked almost like it was grinning. 
Then it grabbed one of Furtado's feet 
and began dragging his body out of 
our campsite. I in row something else 
a disemboweled gauge, I think. The 
reptile hissed around Furtado's foot, 
but didn't relinquish its prey. 

Furtado's head bumped on stone as 
his body disappeared off toward the 
east. The panting of the deinonychus 
dice away. I realized Lacey was hold- 
ing onto me for dear life. 

"Don't go after it," she said. 

"Chuck's dead. There's nothing we can 

"You can get me some breakfast." It 
was Rick Haugen's voice. He giggled 
from his upright chair. "Life's gotta 
go on." 

But for Rick, life was obviously not 
going well. Lacey and I gave him some 
of the dry rations, washed down with 
water from the precious stocks. When 
he chewed, the pain made him stop. I 
shot him up with more of the chemical 
balm, but I could see the supply was 
running low. 

I looked at the suture line around the 
top of his skull. Infection had set in fast. 
Angry colors and disgusting fluids 
flushed vividly every time he tried to 
move his jaw, and facial muscles 

"I'll look for the antibiotics," said 
Lacy quietly. After a while she came 
back from crawling through the wreck- 
age on hands and knees. She held a 
few white tablets in her left hand. 
"Things spilled during the crash," she 
said. "I found these." 

"Are they antibiotics?" I said. 

"Trust to His will," she answered. "If 
they're not, I don't think they'll hurt 

"Bullshit." But 1 forced Rick to swal- 
low two of the pills. I, too, figured it 
couldn't hurt. Then I gave him the last 
of the painkiller. 

He died before dusk. 

We'd taken turns watching over him 
during the day. As it turned out, Lacey 
found a good graveyard while I was 
busily sorting and cataloging our expe- 
dition's rescjrces wnile still keeping an 
eye on Rick. I'd found the rifle and 
shotgun, but the ammunition remained 
among the missing. I discovered 
enough food and water to keep us 
going for a few more days. I even 
found an envelope full of inspirational 
literature for the businessman. Perhaps 
we'd need kindling. 

About midday and against my ad- 
vice, Lacey had gone over the hill the 
same direction taken by the deinony- 
chus making off with Chuck Furtado's 
body. By my watch, she was gone for 
less than hour. She returned excited. 

"There's water," she cried. "There is 
a stream we can drink from." 

"Did you try it?" 

"A little. Trouble is, the water was full 
of bodies." 

I must have looked startled. 

She laughed. "No, Robert, not peo- 
ple. Small dinosaurs. A lot of dead 
ones, but I don't know how or why. 
They probably came there to drink and 
something happened to them." 

"Must make for a pretty rank water- 

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A rendezvous with destiny. 

hole," I said. 

"I walked upstream for a ways. It 
gets better. I tried the water. There's a 
lot of what tastes like mineral content, 
but I'm still alive." She grinned. "What's 
more, I'm not thirsty for the first time 
since we got here." 

I nodded. "We can hunt the dinos 
for food." 

"There's dirt," said Lacy. 
I stared at her. "So?" 
"We can bury Mary there. Chuck 
too. I found most of him on the way. 
The deinonychus must have gotten 

I looked at my inventory sheet, 
"We've got a couple of shovels here. Is 
that really what you want us to do?" 

"'Dust to dust'," she quoted. "It's the 
right thing, I think." 

So we did it. She and I spent about 
twenty minutes lugging Mary Clarke's 
body to the stream bank. Then, while 
Lacey dug shallow graves, I went back 
and picked up what I could of Furtado. 
There wasn't a whole lot, and it didn't 
fill a garbage bag. The deinonychus 
obviously hadn't gone away totally 

Once the bodies were under earth, I 
stood silent while Lacey recited Bible 
verses. I don't remember which. I 
wasn't concentrating. 

".We'd left Rick alone; he was awake 
and chipper and told us he'd yell if 
anything predatory happened Into 
camp. Lacey looked dubious. 

"Just stay perfectly still," I said, real- 
izing too late what I was saying. 
"I can handle that," Rick grinned. 
But when we returned to camp after 
our burial detail, we found Rick Hau- 
gen with his eyes wide open — his 
mouth, too — but no life left in him. 

"We'll bury him in the morning," I 
said. Lacey stared at me— ac- 
cusatively, I thought. "What?" 

"I try to understand you," she said 

I didn't feel like smarting off now, so 
I said nothing. 

"Robert," she said mournfully, "I re- 
searched you pretty heavily after we 
first made love. I'm not a dummy, you 

"So what did you find?" I said, al- 
ready suspecting what I would hear. 

Lacey stepped closer to me, "I used 
to watch your daddy," she said. "Well, 
first I listened to him on the radio. Then 
I saw him when he preached on the 
cable. You know? He was about the 
strongest, fire-breathingest, most 
charismatic minister I ever saw, He had 
both that crazy power that gets folks to 
pay attention, and he had real convic- 
tion." She paused and reached up, 
touched my face gently. "You and he, 

you've both got so much strength." 

I looked away. "I never saw him after 
I left home. I never talked to him before 
he died." 

"You even pretended you weren't 
his son," Lacey said. "It was wrong to 
deny him." 

Turning, back to her. I said, "I was 
walking another road." 

"Maybe," she said. "Maybe not." 
She spread her arms, taking in this 
whole, raw, prehuman world, "I think 
maybe you were just trying to find your- 
self a faith that you could match up 
against his. Maybe it was the same 
faith. Same hymn, different lyrics." 

"I don't think so," I said harshly, 
"We're here. And there's no god to help 
us. There's no way out." 

"It's just a matter of faith," she said 
"and rinding the purpose in all this." 

We locked gazes. She dropped her 
gaze first. The truth to tell, it was about 
the same time I dropped mine. 

Lacey and I went for a late walk, rough 
terrain notwithstanding. Some of the 
cloud cover seemed to blow off to the 
east and we were able to see by the 
light of a very large and beautifully 
bright moon. This time we didn't go to 
the burying ground or the adjacent di- 
nosaurs' graveyard. We went the other 
direct on, toward the eventual sunrise, 
toward the molten glow that tonight 
was more cherry than last night's or- 
ange. It was the wrong direction to en- 

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There is no time. There never 
was any time, and there never 
will be any time. Time as a 
separate thing does not exist. 
Language itself seems to defy 
our attempts to understand time. 
Phrases such as "the beginning 
of time," or "when time began," 
serve only to reinforce our intui- 
tion that time is forever, that it 
could not have had a beginning. 
There may be different varieties 
of time, as there are differing 
kinds of infinities, but "time 
always was, is, and ever shall 
be." To imagine a time without 
time, a space beyond space — 
eventless time and the sheer 
nothingness of purely empty 
space — seem to be logical and 
psychological impossibilities. 

Are these kinds of statements 
merely strange and curious 
verbal train wrecks, or do they 
hide realities that may be even 
more bizarre to our everyday, 
casual way of taking things for 
granted? Minds as diverse as 
those of Immanuel Kant, Kurt 
Godel, and Jorge Luis Borges 
have in one way or another 
denied the reality of passing 
time. Science has developed a 
view that denies Newton's 
conception of time as an abso- 
lute container, in favor of time as 








^ % 

a property of space and matter, 
and dependent on an observer's 
motion. The question today is 
not whether time is real but how 
is time real? 

But our ability to think about 
time is still hobbled by the fact 
that we cannot completely es^ 
cape the historically developed 
ideas about the nature of time 
that still linger in our minds. 
These ideas are a mixture of 
intuitions and inherited notions 
that steer our thinking in the 
manner of incomplete computer 
programs. We cannot wipe our 
minds completely clean and 
think fresh about time because 
we find ourselves inside a sys- 
tem of space-time which we do 
not fully understand. Even the 
oldest, metaphoric conceptions 
of time have the virtue of cap- 
turing some aspect of how we 
experience time, or what we 
imagine it to be. 

What the history of our con- 
ceptions of time shows is how 
one idea after another was tried 
and found to be inadequate, 
until the growth of experimental 
physics put restrictions on what 
we could imagine about time, in 
favor of what we could say 
about it according to the best 
experimental evidence. 

As with concepts of space, the two 
main intuitions about time are: that time 
is an absolute, eternal container in 
which all things happen; and that time 
is nothing by itself, and cannot be un- 
derstood apart from physical pro- 
cesses. Variants of absolute and 
relational theories of time have at- 
tempted to assimilate or accommodate 
each other's features in a variety of ways. 

For example, perceived time is- a 
local experience of change, but 
agafnsl an absolute background time. 
Human beings feel time passing be- 
cause our bodies are running clocks. 
Stop all such clocks and eternity {an- 
other kind of time) will remain. In other 
words, our time is a kind of illusion, re- 
quiring perceiving minds and running 
body clocks to experience events, but 
is nothing by itself. There is a tendency 
to have absolute time somewhere in 
the background while remaining true to 
time's specific, observed aspects. 

A purely relational theory of time 
goes one step further by claiming that 
it makes no sense to talk of 
absolute, background time, in 
which the foreground time we 
experience flows, and that all 
conceptions of eternity and 
absolute time are merely 
imaginative constructs, psy- 
chological illusions that illus- 
trate our need to end the 
questioning process. Ab- 
solute, eventless duration, like 
a universe outside the uni- 
verse, simply makes no sense 
at all, no matter how much it 
teases our imaginations. At 
the very least, there is no empirical 
way, direct or indirect, to demonstrate 
such a reality. 

To imagine time flowing, to think of it 
as a separate entity apart from every- 
thing else, is at the very least a marvel 
of abstraction, a long leap away from 
given experience in which time is felt 
as weighing heavy on one's shoulders 
or fleeting, in short supply, or as drag- 
ging. The Monadoiogy by Gottfried Wil- 
helm Leibniz completely opposed the 
Newtonian conception of absolute 
space and time, in which space and 
time are real, infinite containers in 
which everything happens — time being 
an infinite container of duration, and 
space an infinite container of extension. 

For Leibniz, Sir Isaac Newton's 
space-time was inexplicable. His alter- 
native to Newton's absolute space and 
time was a radical relational theory that 
did not have to explain space and 
time, gravity's action at a distance, 
matter, energy, or any of the real things 
that a physicist must deal with; for 
Leibniz, reality is made up of pre-exist- 

82 OMNI 

ing monads, mental entities that have 
no extension or duration. 

Monads, beings like "you and me, 
are indestructible, eternally existing en- 
tities, into which everything has been 
programmed by God, and even though 
monads are windowless, their pro- 
grammed experience includes every- 
thing that will ever .happen to us, all" 
that we call perception and fellowship 
of other monads. These prog-arnmee' 
experiences interlock without ever 
meeting, to give us the world we know, 
in which we think that we see a tree or 
receive a telephone call. In this sir king, 
,-;i:\s'.he:.ically unified monism, all prob- 
lems of explaining space and time are 
seemingly abolished. 

The time we experience in Leibniz's 
physics is simply the length of the pro- 
gram given to us by God. We are liter- 
ally on tape, experiencing a given 
world as if we were seeing it in the ordi- 
nary way, but the live world from which 
it was recorded does not exist. There is 
no world outside the program that was 






deposited inside each monad. I have 
the perception programmed into me of 
another person; and that person has 
one of me; we dovetail perfectly. A cre- 
ated world is unnecessary; this is the 
created world, and as real as it gets. 
And in the naive realist's sense, it is as 
muGh outside of us as any world of 
space-time and matter would be, since 
il is bestowed by an OLlside agency, 

The attraction of Leibniz's world is 
that it seems to provide all the funda- 
mental answers as to what the universe 
is made of — mental objects — and how 
it functions; but-this merely pushes 
back the demand for explanation, 
since these mental objects require at 
least as much explanation as any rna- 
teria reality in the ordinary sense of re- 
ality, nothing exists at all, everything 
being made of mental substance. One 
is reminded of James Jeans's famous 
remark that "The universe begins to 
look more like a great thought than like 
a great machine." 

Leibniz's universe is the perfect sim- 
ulation, a way of having a universe 

wilhoui having Io create something oul 
of nothing. The only problem with it is 
that there can be no empirical verifica- 
tion of its truth outside of a priori rea- 
soning, We may, however, be able to 
create such a universe ourselves in the 
virtual realities of cyberspace. And 
there are aspects to Leibniz's psychol- 
ogy that may one day be useful; out 
today's scientist would naturally con- 
clude that in his monadoiogy Leibniz 
was kidding. 

Kant is less subjectivist than Leib- 
niz. For him space and time are the 
forms that mind puts on things-in-them- 
seives, as they exist outside our per- 
ceiving minds — and these noumenal 
things have no spatial or temporal 
qualities in themselves. The universe 
we see springs into being only when 
minds work, unconsciously, on things- 
as-they-are, in what we call perception. 
This is not an arbitrary universe, since 
we cannot simply invent what we per- 
ceive, but only things-in-themselves 
are absolutely real, and unfortunately, 

Albert Einstein seems to 
belong to this same idealist 
school, in which reality is a 
subjective ordering of 
events, especially in the 
special theory's denial of 
simultaneity for greatly 
separated observers. 
Clocks separated by one 
light-year, for example, can 
never be' known to be syn- 
chronized, because com- 
munication between the 
clocks is limited by the 
speed of light. Similarly, events that 
mighT aopear simultaneous to two ob- 
servers who are close together, will ap- 
pear not to be so to a third observer 
who is moving away from them at some 
large fraction of light speed. But this 
seemingly subjective feature of the 
special theory is set aside in the gen- 
eral theory, in which the geometry of 
space-time is presented as a literal 
Newtonian reality that serves to explain 
gravity. Einstein believes in a real uni- 
verse outside our minds. To stress the 
apparently SL.biectivist features in his 
Work is to forget their grounding in 
physical fact. 

Subjectivist, or idealist, tendencies 
in the history of physics are important 
because they emphasize, however 
strangely at times, the importance of 
the observer, the entity that experi- 
ences the scheme of reality. We strug 
gle to differentiate between what is in. 
us and what is out there; or more prop- 
erly, between what we imagine the uni- 
verse to be and what it may in fact be. 
Entropy, or time's arrow, flows in one di- 


I've been ranting and rav- 
ing about it for years, but now 
I'm going to do something 
about the overpopulation prob- 
lem, personally. 

I'm going to die. 


Sitting here at my desk 
just as I've sat every workday 
during the past 60 years, 
it's hard for me to believe that 
this is not just another 
story opening designed to at- 
tract reader attention. But 
this time it's fact, not fiction. 

Not that the subject 
matter is all that new to me. 
For most of those 60 long 
years of a professional writing 
career I've been dealing 
with death and dying. Scores 
have perished in my mur- 
der mysteries and suspense 
stories, hundreds more 
succumbed In my fantasy 
tales, entire populations 
were wiped out in my specu- 
lative fiction, and nobody 
can total the body count of my 
supernatural horror work- 
But that's my job. I roll a 
piece of paper into the 
typewriter, load it with words, 
and the words kill people- 
Only this time when I do it. I'm 
killing myself, and it's not 
just a story anymore. It's real. 

I'm going to die. 


The problem is, I'm not 
ready yet. I'm not prepared Like 
most of us, 1 suppose, 


I've a 

tlnate, to put off things 
until tomorrow, or sometime 
in the near future And 
now, all at once, the doctors 
tell me there won't be very 
many tomorrows, and the fu- 
ture they foresee Is very 
near indeed. 

Granted, the medical 
practitioners aren't always in- 
fallible in their prognoses, 
and today's high tech isn't 
necessarily of more value 
than yesterday's tender loving 
care. Dr, Fu Manchu may 
not have been your choice for 
a family physician, but at 
least he made house calls. 

In his absence I've had 
to rely on the machinery and 
mechanics of internists, 
gastroenterologists, and on- 
cologists. They would be 
only too happy to dispel false 
tumors, but instead all 
agree that I've got a real one. 
And it's got me. They're 
all pretty cagey about exactly 

roa 1 Have 
left — months, weeks 
but every one 
agrees it might be a good 
idea for me to 
instant coffee 

Having lived a long time, 
it's difficult now to accept 
that stalling and inertia have 
cheated me of so many 
of life's simplest pleasures. I 
never mastered the art of 
producing a piercing, ; 

able to snap my fingers— or 
wiggle my ears. 

I have never operated a 
computer or seen the light 
at the end of the carpal tunnel. 
I've missed out on learn- 
ing how to play a musical in- 
strument, or even a guitar. 
I'm hopeless in sports, never 
gotten into gaming, haven't 
done hard drugs or knowingly 
ingested garlic into my 
system. I have never molested 
a child, or vice versa. I've 
owned dogs, cats, canaries, 
and other pets without 
harboring carnal desires for 
any of them. I once at- 
tempted sex with a Playboy 
centerfold, but her staples 
got in the way. 

These are some of the 
things you think about when 
you know you're going to 
be dead soon. 

And because you 're 

Damn right I am. And I 
think anyone who isn't afraid 
of dying is crazy, unless he 
or she has found a way around 
the problem. Becoming a 
vampire might be nice, but how 
do you go about it? 

I tried, but can't say I had 
much success. All that my 
long-distance phone call pro- 
duced was, Thank you for 
calling Castle Dracula. We're 
sorry, but ail of our blood- 
suckers are busy right now. 

and blood type we will return 
your call as soon as 

So much for modern tech- 
nology, and maybe it's 
just as well I didn't call back, 
Come to think of it, a vam- 
pire's existence isn't ail that 
easy, and who wants to 
sleep in an evening dress 
instead of pajamas? Be- 
sides, I don't want to live for- 
ever — just long enough to 
be around for George Burns's 
1 00th birthday. 

All right, enough of that. 
Let's get real. Get a life. 
Get a death. 

Just what do we know 
about death, anyway? 
Not as much as we think, 
most of us, because it 
isn't something we're sup- 
posed to think about, 

I'm no exception. In spite 
of my professional pre- 
occupations, there's very little 
I ever bothered to learn 
about the actual rigors of mor- 
tis. But now that I've a 
personal interest In the sub- 
ject, I decided it was high 
time to find out what to expect 
Here's what the experts 

When you die, your 
heart stops. But the t 
still technically alive for 
three or four more minutes. 
Digestion occurs for the 
next twenty-four hours. Blood 



remains viable for several hours, then 
settles downward so that the body's 
downside is darker and more mottled; 
if the body lies face upward, the face is 
pale. Rigor mortis takes place in from 
two to six hours, depending on circum- 
stances, and reverses two or three 
days later, By this time the stomach is 
bloated with gas. The flesh decom- 
poses, the veins and skin turn blue, 
purple, green, and black. The softer 
tissue turns to jelly, the cornea of the 
eye is no longer clear, the eyes begin 
to melt in their sockets. The 
skin pulls away from the lips, 
leaving a grin. Bacteria thrive, 
worms feel no horror, only 
hunger. Maggots are moving 
mouths, devouring decay. 


I'm going to be cremated. 

But in the end, forensic 
details aren't important. The 
body is just an -exterior; the 
real me is interior. What 
happens there? 

And according to a 
million different religions, 
you don't stay inside after 
you're dead. The me part 
comes out, and you have a 
choice of another million 
versions-telling you what 
becomes of it. Who looks 
after its welfare, who pro- 
tects it? Here's an answer 
picked at random; 

In northern India, in the cemetery of 
Bodhgaya. is Kshetrapala, the Guard- 
ian of the Dead. A demon with blue 
skin, a yellow face, bristling orange 
hair, three bulging red eyes, and a 
four-fanged grin, he is clad in a corpse 
skin and a tigerskin loincloth. He is 
mounted astride a huge biack bear, 
carrying an axe in one hand and a 
skull-cap of blood in the other, 

So much for your security guard. On 
the other hand, if you're dead- inside as 
well as out, who needs this kind of 
protection? And think of the hassle 
you'd get with the animal lovers after 
they heard about tigerskin loincloths 
and riding on bears. 

66 OMNI 

If legend hasn't got the answers," 
maybe it's better to try history. After all, 
when you get right down to it, history is 
really just one long death report. 

Sample; In China, in 1640 a.d., the 
warlord Chang Hsien-Chung killed 
30,000,000 people in less than a year 
in Szechuan Province alone. The entire 
area was transformed into a mountain 
range of body parts — hands, feet, 
heads, torsos. 

Sound incredible? Yes, but if you 
read it again it sounds pretty dull, too- 

dull and meaningless. We don't know 
who Chang Hsien-Chung was, and not 
knowing, we can't really care. History 
has reduced him to the same ano- 
nymity as that of his 30,000,000 
victims, and they too remain statistics 
rather than human beings whose 
sufferings we can share. Aside from 
the health hazard provided by those 
mountains of cold cuts, there's nothing 
here for us to care about. We don't 
know what happened, or why, and it's 
not likely any of that vast army of vic- 
tims will return to give us any answers. 

Call Dr. Frankenstein's laboratory 
and ask if he can restore any of those 
body parts to life, and all you'll get is a 

recodec message. Sorry, but we don't 
have that information at the moment. 
Our Fritz is down. 

Not much information, and no 
consolation here; not from forensic 
medicine, organized religion, or dis- 
organized corpses in history. 

So where to learn the lessons about 
dying and how to die? In the end (a 
term which is no longer just a figure of 
speech to me), I must return to my own 
roots — fiction and drama, the areas 
in which I've lived and worked all 
these years. 

I It seems to me that the 

British and the Americans 
are the real masters of 
deathbed drama, though 
they had to learn their 
techniques through trial and 
error. A good example 
_ would be Lord Nelson's last 
words to a captain when 
mortally wounded at Tra- 
falgar': "Kiss me, Hardy." 
Obviously this line of dia- 
logue would have been much 
more appropriate coming 
from the mouth of Stan Laurel. 
But practice makes per- 
fect, and perfection was 
reached in the film Citizen 
Kane as Orson Welles whis- 
pered "Rosebud" as a last 
word, revealing himself to 
be a sledophile. 

Though not all of us can 
expect the sentimental sendoff of a 
Little Nell or get yanked to heaven by 
stagehands who pulled the stunt (and 
ropes) for Little Eva, there are easier 
examples to follow. 

Nobody ever died better than the 
British in the early days of sound film. 
Most of them breathed their last in 
luxury; a clean double or king-size bed 
in a handsomely furnished bedroom of 
a town house, a country manor, or 
even a noble palace. Generally 
propped up on pillows, and extremely 
well-lighted, the moribund usually had 
time to deliver bits of wisdom and 
philosophy before quietly expiring — all 
this, mind you, without a single tube or 

Dominate the mind.!: 
Dominate the world! . 


* ■ ft- 

• ■ • Ullilll 


■ ■ ■ ■ ■ g 


he USSR, they 
research into * R 

it's up to you to find it! 


□ irte with physicist Frank 
Tipler and his wife at 
Christian's, one of New Or- 
leans's finest restaurants, and 
something becomes very clear: 
Caution is not his style. The 
gusto and verve with which 
Tipler consumes haute cui- 
sine lathered with rich sauces 
and rounds oft the meal with a 
challenging dessert, is impres- 
sive. His cholesterol count 
may be in the red zone, but 
be isn't concerned. "As you 
know," he guffaws cheerily, 
"my Omega Point theory pre- 
dicts we will all live forever." 

Tipler shows a similarly un- 
fettered appetite for ideas. 
"Good scientists," he says, 
"have chutzpah. We are will- 
ing to ask any question what- 
soever." Even so, few of his 
peers would dare to make the 
fantastic claims put forth in 
Tipler's just published Physics 
of Immortality. Using only 
math and physics, Tipler 
builds a theory about the uni- 
verse from the beginning to 
the end of time, predicting the 
existence of God, resurrection 
of the dead, and life everlast- 
ing for one and all. 

Enough to blow most crack- 
pot detectors right off the 
scale. Yet Tipler is no soft- 
head baking mysteries of 
quantum physics into New 
Age marshmallows. A tenured 
full professor at Tulane Uni- 
versity, a reviewer for Nature, 
and an established cosmolo- 
gist, he is "widely known for 
important concepts and theo- 
rems in general relativity and 
gravitation physics," accord- 
ing to the grand old man of 
cosmology, astrophysicist 
John Wheeler of Princeton. 

Tipler's last book, The An- 
thropic Cosmological Princi- 
ple, published in 1986, was a 






and cosmologisi 


Tulane University, 
New Orleans, LA 


The Physics of Immortality 

(Doubleday, 1994) 
TheAnthropic Cosmohglcal 
Principle (Oxford, 1986) 


"God, a personal being 
who created the 

universe out of nothing, 
exists, loves us, 

and will one day resurrect 

us all to live 

in heaven forever." 


Principles of physics 


"I'm predicting it because 

most of us want 

it, and the beings' of the 

far future will be 

nice and let us have it. It's- 

a small part 

of the infinite future." 


"We can adjust 

our ages .and make a few 

improvements in our 


too, while we're at 

it. I'd certainly prefer to be 

20 rather than my 

current advanced age of 

47. 1 think some 

mental improvements 

have been made 
since I was 20. Though 

when they see 
my book, many of my 


will .disagree with my 



"The fundamental 

computer is theultimate 

level of reality," 


shocker. Co-authored with 
British cosmologist and as- 
trophysicist John D. Barrow, 
It prompted the reviewer in 
Nature to say the volume 
deserved a place "on the 
shelf of any serious scholar 
of science." Still, he couldn't 
shake a sense of "some 
snake oil being peddled." 
The page was ornamented 
with a cartoon of Tipler and 
Barrow riding a magic car- 
pet, scribbling away with 
papers flying. 

This time brickbats were 
hurled before the Physics of 
Immortality was completed. 
A friend invited Tipler to lec- 
ture at the Max Planck Insti- 
tute in Munich when the 
book appeared in Germany 
this spring, but the invitation 
was rescinded at the last min- 
ute. The fax read: "Dear 
Frank . . . some amount of 
speculation is stimulating, but 
you have gone too tar— so far, 
in fact, the public reputation 
of science might suffer." 

"I didn't know differential 
equal ens could be so con- 
troversial,''. Tipler cracks. "I 

wss-Vi going to mention Goo 
[in the lecture] even once." 

Tipler predicts that intelli- 
gent life will eventually ex- 
pand throughout the uni- 
verse, growing to infinite in- 
telligence with infinite knowl- 
edge by the Omega Point, 
the end of existence some 
million trillion years away, 
He suggests the Omega 
Point is the equivalent of God. 
As we hurtle toward this final 
singularity — a boundary point 
where space-time curves to 
infinity and ceases to exist — 
computational power will 
rise so high that future be- 
ings will re-creaie all previous 
beings. And we will live for- 
ever in a virtual-reality heaven. 

Now 47, Tipler was born 
and raised in Andalusia, Al- 
abama. His first science 
project was a letter written in 
kindergarten to Werner von 
Braun, whose plans to 
launch the first earth satellite 
were then being publicized. 
Von Braun's secretary replied, 
regretting he had no rocket 
fuel for Tipler as requested. 
By age five, he knew he 

wanted "o be an as:roohys 
cist. But he's always been a 
polymath, reading widely 
across disciplines and Into 
the history of science. and 
theology. After graduating 
from MIT and the University 
of Maryland, he did post- 
doctoral work at Oxford and 
3-3'keley, before arriving at 
Tulane in 1981. 

I sat in on Tipler's class in 
global relativity and after- 
ward talked to him in his of- 
fice and at Christian's, He 
chose the restaurant partly 
for its cuisine and partly be- 
cause of its name. The irony 
is typical of Tipler, whose 
idea of his work as serious 
fun is contagious. 

— Anthony Liversidge 

Omni: Are you a crackpot? 
Tipler: I don't think so. But 
no crackpot thinks he is, 
right? An astronomer once 
published a list of the rules 
for determining a crackpot. 
Well, if you read Darwin's 
Origin of the Species, you'll 
find he was a crackpot by 
some of the criteria. I'm very 

conservative scientifically. I'm just 
changing the boundary conditions in 
cosmology from the beginning of time 
to the end of time. I accept all known 
physical laws, and just change the 
point of view. 

Omni: What is the message of your 
book, Physics of Immortality? 
Tipler: Emmanuel Kant claimed the 
three fundamental problems of meta- 
physics are: Does God exist?, Do we 
have free will?, and Is there life after 
death? I turn those questions of meta- 
physics into problems of physios, and 
solve them, answering yes, yes, yes. 
That's how I'd summarize my book. 
Omni: Aren't you confusing physics 
with metaphysics? 

Tipler; The history of science is typi- 
cally about turning insoluble problems 
of metaphysics into problems of 
physics and solving them. Like one of 
Kant's problems: Has the universe ex- 
isted forever, or only a finite time? Kant 
thought this was fundamentally insolu- 
ble too, and had a purported proof of 
this. But in this century, we've turned 
this supposedly hsoiuule metaphysical 
problem into one of physics and solved 
it, to find the universe is 10 to 20 billion 
years old. I'm just taking the next step. 
My reductionist belief is that a problem 
that can be solved can be solved by 

physics. And only by physics. 
Omni: Reductionist belief? Why do you 
call yourself a reductionist? 
Tipler: Because I believe everything 
can be understood on the basis of 
physics and almost everything on the 
basis of our currently understood 
physics. If the Einstein field equations 
are correct, and you know the initial- 
data, then you know everything about 
the future. If you know the initial condi- 
tions at any time, you know the condi- 
tions at all time. That's standard 
Laplacian determinism. You put initial 
or final boundary conditions into equa- 
tions and compute the results, 
Omni: So are you a scientist or theolo- 
gian, or both? 

Tipler: Like most leaders of the Ameri- 
can Revolution, I am a natural theolo- 
gian, saying the only thing you'll learn 
about God derives from nature itself, 
rather than from what He chooses to 
reveal to His prophets. 
Omni: What does your theory tell the 
man on the street? 

Tipler: Reducing the Omega Point the- 
ory to one sentence, it is this: God, who 
is a personal being who created the 
universe out of nothing, exists, loves 
us, and will one day resurrect us all to 
live in heaven forever. Now defending 
this outrageous statement using rigor- 

■The ws(M.M0ofMWf// 

ous science takes a 600-paco book: 
But I can turn every single word into a 
reductionist statement of physical real- 
ity. What the average [Christian] reli- 
gious person with no knowledge of 
physics hopes for will : n fact occur. 
Omni: Won't physicists give you a hell 
of a lot of trouble? 

Tipler: Yes, surely. But I never leave the 
realm of physics. This view, that the 
basic tenets of religion can be ex- 
plained by physics, has been held by 
all great Chris! : an Ihooiogians. I quote 
St. Paul to that effect — the basic attrib- 
utes of God can be seen by the natural 
light of reason. St. Thomas Aquinas 
based his five proofs of the existence 
of God purely on Aristotlean physics, 
That the existence ot God can be es- 
tablished by natural reason is Roman 
Catnolic dogma. 

Omni: What leads you to predict we 
shall all be raised from the dead and 
live forever? 

Tipler: We're fundamentally of no im- 
portance in the gigantic scale- of things. 
I'd only mention -resurrection as a trivia 
aside at the end of a lecture on the 
physics. As a physicist, I'm interested 
in showing how powerful this theory of 
the future can be in constraining the 
past. To understand the physics of past 
and present, you must anchor your 
frame of reference on the future. I de- 
velop that technically. You can only un- 
derstand what's going on now if you 
impose boundary conditions at the end 
of time. Omega means final, as in the 
Bible's "I am the Alpha and Omega." 
The Omega Point is the point at the 
end of time, and the fact that it is a 
point has significance in my theory, be- 
cause it means unlimited communica- 
tion at the end of time, without which 
life ■■■vojld cease to exisi. 

The standard model of a closed uni- 
verse does not end in a single point, 
but a three-dimensional sphere. My 
theory says no, it has to be a single 
point. It's difficult to test, I admit, which 
is why I put a question mark as to 
whether or not it's called a prediction 
Let's do a quick calculation of the rela- 
tive physical sizes of the future and 
past. We compute the space-time vol- 
ume of the past light cone— the four-di- 
mensional part of the universe 
extending back 10 to 20 billion years 
into universal history — and compare 
that with the region outside it. The cal- 
culation tells us the volume of our fu- 
ture is at least 30,000 times larger than 
our past, even using a small estimate 
for the s ze oi ihe universe. 

If life is to continue forever, certain 
properties of the universe must be 
fixed now. Take the solar system. It's 
perfectly consistent with Newtonian 

Not everyone gets to 
meet his maker.., 

..and kill him 



JE H^jgl «->|i{nil SEGHAUES, LANCE GROOMS 8 JAMIE llll 

mechanics to assume the earth is the 
center of the solar system. But it's 
hopeless mathematically: You'll get a 
complete mess when you try to analyze 
it. But if you make the sun the center, 
the math becomes trivial. The simplicity 
of the underlying physics becomes 
clear if you adopt the appropriate coor- 
dinate system, I'm doing the same 
thing to the universe as a whole, saying 
that anchoring your frame of reference 
on the ultimate future enables you to 
understand the past. If you try to un- 
derstand the future by the past, you'll 
get a mess you can't possibly interpret. 
Omni: Doesn't the real world have too 
many unknowns to project very far into 
the future? 

Tipler: Assuming life goes on forever 
enormously constrains possible fu- 
tures. Chaos is the technical term for 
the instability you're referring to. If you 
don't know everything precisely, the 
slightest errors amplify as you go far- 
ther into time, and after a while you 
can't predict anything. Coupled to that 
is the unpredictability of living beings. 
They have free will, and you can't pre- 
dict what they're going to do. If I'm 
right, however, on the large scale these 
two sources of unpredictability cancel 
each other out, and you get pre- 
dictability. The Einstein equations allow 

for this chaos, so you can predict the 
c':"g-:-ocale structure of the universe. 
Omni: Surely we may blow ourselves 
and the planet to bits, and your eternal 
life postulate with it. 

Tipler: My strategy is to accept the uni- 
verse is deterministic. The situation is a 
bit more subtle— after all, there'd be no 
free will if it were completely true. But- 
let's assume it's deterministic, as it cer- 
tainly would be if the mechanics were 
those of Einstein or Newton. So whether 
or not we're going to blow ourselves to 
bits was locked into concrete 20 billion 
years ago. There's no contingency in a 
deterministic space-time; everything 
was fixed at the beginning of time. 

In the quantized Omega Point the- 
ory, this determinism is only approxi- 
mate. We have free will, and can blow 
ourselves to bits. But If we do, there 
must be at least one other intelligent 
species in the' universe that does not 
blow itself up. Our destruction is un- 
likely now. Instead, we'll begin interstel- 
lar colonization next century,. after 
which the destruction of the earth won't 
matter to the postulate. 

The Omega Point theory is that life 
goes on forever, and as a conse- 
quence, the universe is closed, with its 
final state a single point. That it is a 
point is imp'ied by life going on forever, 

because that means communication 
must be unlimited as you approach the 
Omega Point. In subjective time,, an in- 
finite amount of thoughts are thought 
between now and this ultimate final 
state. It is infinitely far away, and thus, 
even though we will be resurrected 
close to the final point, we will still have 
eternal life. Infinitely long life, 
Omni: Is God a He? 

Tipler: I say He when referring to the 
Judeo-Christian God. I use He/She in 
the Omega Point theory. I don't want to 
use It, because I want personhood 
there. But sex as we Know it is a pecu- 
liarity of eukaryotic biochemistry, not of 
any fundamental personhood. 
Omni: So He/She doesn't exist now? 
Tipler; That's only from our point of 
view. Taking the space-time viewpoint, 
you see the whole universe at once, 
from the end of time, from the ultimate 
future. From our point of view, He/She 
is coming into existence. From God's 
point of view, He/She is drawing the to- 
tality of reality into Himself/Herself as 
time goes forward. God's point of view 
is ultimately the more fundamental of 
the two; but we have to look at things 
necessarily from our point of view. 
Omni: Why do we care if life ceases at 
the end of time? 
Tipler: You have to be very careful in 




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cosmology when talking about measur- 
ing time. There is no time that all clocks 
measure. Your clocks depend on the 
environment. Newtonian mechanics 
doesn't use the earth's rotation as its 
clock. If it did, it would be logically im- 
possible for the earth to slow down. But 
until Newtonian mechanics, the earth 
was the fundamental clock. 

Right now, we're using proper time 
because it is proportional in the pres- 
ent environment to atomic time, which 
can vaguely be thought of as the vibra- 
tion of an atom. But in detail, proper 
time is a ridiculous time scale to use 
near the final state. Atomic time is inap- 
propriate nee- aincuiariliss where there 
are no atoms. There I use subjective 
time, which is measured by the number 
of individual thoughts you have. The 
end of time is infinitely far away: An infi- 
nite number of thoughts will have been 
thought between now and this ultimate 
state. We will be brought into existence 
again near the final state, and will con- 
tinue to live forever — in subjective time. 
That's why we should be interested in 
the far future as human beings. As 
physicists we should be interested in it 
because most of reality is there! 
Omni: How will life spread throughout 
the universe? 
Tipler: It's physically possible to build a 

space ship that can go to the other 
side of the universe if you use extreme 
nanotechnology. And secondly, we 
have to realize everything — this desk, 
this building, humans — is a pattern of 
information. In principle, you can get 
the whole of the pattern, which is the 
human, and code it inside a computer. 
Omni: What does life mean in this con- 
text? People like Schopenhauer have" 
talked of a life force or will. 
Tipier: No such things! 
Omni: So you can write all the informa- 
tion needed to reproduce me or you 
some other place or time, and send it 
across the universe? 
Tipler: Exactly. I prefer to use the term 
computer emulation. An emulation is 
an exact simulation, an absolutely per- 
fect copy. Everybody's computer emu- 
lates other computers, although the 
average person is not aware of that. In 
any running computer there are several 
computers there. All but one of them 
are virtual computers, perfect imita- 
tions of other computers. Writing com- 
rrtaxfe into your machine, you see the 
physical machine, but in reality an em- 
ulation of another computer exists in- 
side this machine. But it exists only as 
bits of information. 

Using physics, specifically the 
Bekenstein Bound, you can prove a 

human being, indeed the entire visible 
universe, can be emulated by a suffi- 
ciently powerful computer. I give esti- 
mates of the upper bound of how 
powerful a machine will be required: for 
a human, M3 i5 bits of information. The 
entire universe will need 10 123 bits, as 
Roger Penrose was the first to compute. 

As you go into the future, the 
amount of information storage diverges 
to infinity. Eventually, however, 10 123 
bits will be insignificant in comparison 
to the total computer capacity of the 
universe. So in the far future the whole 
present universe will be emulated 
using a tiny fraction of total computer 
capacity. If this is done by our descend- 
ants, once they've taken over the uni- 
verse and gained control over its 
resources, they will emulate into the fu- 
ture the universe as it now exists. We 
would come into existence again — the 
present universe at a higher level of im- 
plementation, just as inside my com- 
puter there is a virtual machine, and 
possibly a virtual machine inside that, a 
hierarchy of implementation. ' 
Omni: But will this "event" be only an 
information emulation, not an actual 
physical one. 

Tipler: The event will be the present re- 
ality, but at a higher level of implemen- 
tation. No experiment conducted inside 
the simulation could distinguish be- 
tween the emulation and the real thing. 
An emulation is -the thing being emu- 
lated, an exact simulation in every con- 
ceivable respect. 

Omni: Sitting here, how do we know we 
are not an emulation? 
Tipler: We don't. We could be an emu- 
lation in the far future. Anything you 
have now will be there then. You'd think 
as you do now. Beings that are perfect 
copies are no longer copies. They are 
the beings. Right now we are in effect 
being run as a program: One state of 
the universe succeeds the next as we 
move forward in time. You can do that 
as a computer emulation. There'd be 
no difference in our experience now, 
and as our emulated selves, until be- 
ings in the far future start to change the 
emulation — such as moving us into a 
different environment. 
Omni: How can people exist as emula- 
tions and retain control over their exist- 
ence? Explain that! 

Tipler: How do you know you have 
control now? From a higher level of im- 
plementation you'd have no idea what 
the universe is at its most basic level. 
In the far future you'd never deal with 
the base computer, only with the emu- 
lation. You are inside the emulation. 
How do you know you're not part of it 
now? You don't. 

Now given their power to improve 

the life situation, would the beings of 
the far future permit us to exist in all. 
this misery? No. They'll improve our 
lives very rapidly. That's my argument. 
I'll grant you it's weaker than the argu- 
ment that the power will exist to bring 
the present universe back into exist- 
ence. That I can argue on the basis of 
physics. The second step is ultimately 
a sociological or biological argument, 
an estimate of how the beings in the far 
future will actually act. I'd claim they'll 
be motivated to emulate us, just as we 
are now trying to emulate the first living 
cells, our ultimate ancestors. 
Omni: What is your definition of the 
soul that's resurrected? 
Tipler: Like the average person, I de- 
fine a soul as the essence of the 
human being— the difference between 
a corpse and a living being. But unlike 
many, I use physics to tell me that the 
fundamental difference between a liv- 
ing being and a corpse is a particular 
program being run on the body, most 
importantly the brain. 
Omni: A robot could have a soul? 
Tipler: Certainly. You only doubt it now 
because we don't have a computer or 
program powerful enough. This con- 
cept of soul is not unfamiliar to Chris- 
tians if they go back to original 
theology. St. Thomas Aquinas followed 
Aristotle in defining the soul as the form' 
of activity of the body. By form Aristotle 
meant what we now call pattern. Activ- 
ity means it's in motion to distinguish it 
from a corpse. Activity is what I mean 
by pattern: information being coded in 
the body. The activity is, in essence, 
natural selection. A person is a pro- 
gram you can talk to, that can convince 
you it is like you. 

Omni: Hasn't a lot of information about 
each person and his or her life been 
lost forever, preventing this future emu- 
lation from occurring precisely? 
Tipler: That won't stop us from resur- 
recting the past. A crucial conse- 
quence of my free-will theory is that we 
cannot know everything happening 
now. But the future being will know 
something about the present, just as 
you know something about Schopen- 
hauer. A historian would define the past 
as the collection of all histories that's 
consistent with what he knows in the 
present. Thus you'd make emulations 
of all those possible histories, and the 
real person would be included as one 
of the emulations. You'll emulate all 
possible variants- if you don't know pre- 
cisely what happened, all possible uni- 
verses consistent with the future's 
knowledge of the present visible uni- 
verse, and guarantee the current uni- 
verse is in your collection. 
Omni: If you are going to fill a virtual 

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world with zillions of slightly varied 
copies of me as I am now, why would I 
be delighted? 

Tipler: You want to know if this specific 
you will be there? That is guaranteed! 
Omni: Yes, as one possibility of myself, 
not zillions. 

Tipier: Zillions of realities, not mere 
possibilities! But these zillions of yous 
are here now, if the many-worlds inter- 
pretation of quantum mechanics is cor- 
rect, as it is accepted by many physi- 
cists. In the distant future, as now, you totally unaware of these other 
yous. But this particular you will con- 
tinue to exist. 

Omni: If life is information, the exist- 
ence of eternal life is only the eternal 
oxisience of information. 
Tipler: Yes, and it's being coded; infor- 
mation processing going on forever is 
a reductionist way of saying life going 
on forever. 

Omni: Is that why some people keep 
extensive diaries, do great works of art 
or deeds? 

Tipler: It's one way of seeking immortal- 
ity. Schopenhauer, in a shadow sense, 
stiil exists in your mind. But all as- 
pects — the full power — of Schopenhauer 
is not there. An extraordinary event that 
affected him as a child, but was un- 
mentioned in his journals and no one 

else thought to recover, is not now ex- 
isting. That Schopenhauer can return 
into existence only if the entire visible 
universe of the late nineteenth century 
is emulated in the computers of the far 
future. You have a very limited form of 
immortality when you try to live forever 
through your works. 

Omni: How will we eventually take over- 
and control the universe? 
Tipler: It won't be Homo sapiens. If our 
species has a typical mammalian life- 
time, it will live only a few more million 
years. Our descendants — probably in- 
telligent robots — will use rockets to ex- 
pand from our present isolated point in 
the universe to eventually engulf the 
whole. Then we can use the universe's 
chaos to force it into patterns we want. 
It doesn't have to be us; somebody has 
to make it. It will be able to engulf, pat- 
tern, and control the whole universe — 
and must, to survive. 
Omni: It seems impossible for any life 
to control galaxies. 

Tipler: Chaos allows a little nudge here 
to amplify, after a while, to an enor- 
mous change there. Imagine a row of 
dominoes, each of which is slightly 
larger than the next. This domino hits 
the next and so on until you .have a gi- 
gantic stone pushed by that slight 
nudge of the first domino. 

Omni: Wl at about oss of energy? 
Tipler: Then the system is not chaotic. 
According to general relativity, the sys- 
tem is chaotic. The universe will ex- 
pand to a maximum size and then 
contract because it's closed. But by 
moving matter slightly here' and there in 
just the right pattern, you can force the 
universe to collapse at different speeds 
and directions into certain patterns. 
You fire a projectile so that it moves by 
a larger object whose orbit is slightly 
deflected by it. This builds up from 
planets to stars to whole galaxies. That 
is how the game is played. As the size 
of the collapsing universe goes to zero, 
gravitational energy — the ultimate 
source of energy — goes to infinity. 
Omni: How did you first formulate this 
theory of yours? 

Tipler: I read Freeman Dyson's, "Time 
Without End," published in the Review 
of Modern Physics, in which he asked 
the question, Can life go on forever? 1 
thought he was insufficiently reduction- 
ist, didn't go the full way in reducing life 
to physics. I define life as something 
coding information preserved by nat- 
ural selection Molecular biolog:si Colin 
Cairns-Smith, of the University of Glas- 
gow, and zoologist Richard Dawkins at 
Oxford, have come up with essentially 
the same definition, What unites us is 
our fierce reductionism. We don't want 
a definition of life locked to the DNA 
molecule, because you can imagine a 
life form that is not. If an E.T.-\\ke crea- 
ture came in a spaceship, and his 
chemistry wasn't DNA-based, we'd still 
want to call him alive. 

Investigating whether life can go on 
forever was the start of the Omega 
Point theory. Concluding that life can't 
go on forever in an open universe, I 
said, Let's look at a closed universe. 
Initially any physicist would say, Of 
course not. If it is closed it will expand 
to a maximum size and recontract. As 
it starts to get smaller, the temperature 
will get hotter and hotter, and as it ap- 
proaches the final singularity, the tem- 
perature will go to infinity. 

Any human will obviously be inciner- 
ated and crushed to zero volume. But 
is it possible for information to be en- 
coded as you go into that final singu- 
larity? The singularity is on the bound- 
ary of space-time. You approach, but 
never reach it as long as you are in 
space-time; but the energy is going to' 
infinity. Information is always encoded 
as occupied or unoccupied energy lev- 
els. There are discrete levels of en- 
ergy — a gap between one level and 
the next. As you approach the singular- 
ity, all you have to do is make sure the 
energy levels that encode information 
are at higher levels than the tempera- 



The devil's design; 

UFOs as war toys for anqels of the dark 

■ry of UFOs? The first 
V sav, came from tr 


the spot." Despite this ghost- 

and evil, with I 


. "We are dealing with 
itelligent beings," 

3 whatever cover they can." "So 

in Catholic, and Blann. a be Dre 

imple, or leaving scars 
juctees. For Pacheco 
rid Blann these seemingly 
ingible clues meant UFOs 

lation alone. 

' > phenomenon must 

ling not of our world but interacting will 

sligion. It is our belief that what i . 

io, the evil nature of much UF 

reDutation is considerable. Pacheco. 49. doubts about wL. — 

5d States Air Force, during evil." Pacheco adds, citing the aliens' disregard of 
geting of Minuteman human free will. "When these beings discuss God, they 
ballistic missiles and the tracking of satellites for the set themselves up as the true savior of humankind 
North American Aerospace Defense Command- in order to undermine traditional Christianity-" 
hich keeps watch on enemy craft that pose a Early comments on Blann and Pac 

it to the United States and Canada. He was have been positive but not without rt 

chairman of the mathematics department at the "Their grasp of the data is firm and tl. 

Air Force Academy before retiring as a lieutenant plausible," says philosopher Michael G 

aning is flawed. Yes, there is a i 
... . . __, but this does not imply satanic 
i in All kinds of people are critical of, even hostile to. th 


years, then worked as f 

the league with the devil? I don't think so. 



| advertise to the gen- 

frequent take sperm from p 

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Laboratories, th„ ._ 
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probably dis- 
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jne is a college junior 

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or junkies, are desperate- INDIANA'S SHOF 

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sense of expansiveness HAS BECOME A LUCRATIVE Although Follas hirr 

ior? While provided by the initial LOCAL ATTRACTION. sees no difference in 

id high. "But the ironic thing," ^^^^^^ mmi ^ B ^ ax the sperm, he admits that 

counselors focus primarily she notes, "is that after "the more education 

on the physical, emo- the initial taste of spiritual runs the sperm bank. someone has, the better 

tionaL and social compo- possibilities, a person In fact, the media attention his sperm sells. Our 

enters a kind of downward was so intense that bestsellers," he adds, "are 

a Grof, addictive spiral that opening week, Follas in- donated by Indiana 

Thirst drags him or her farther vited the general pub- University medical stu- 

" 'Harper away from the possi- lie and the press inside. dents."— Anita Baskin 

ad- bility of a true spiritual Unfortunately, i**» 

of West Le 

many people," she says, Gr 

addiction. Once addicts a little pc 

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logical Seminary (one of the GTU fam- 
ily), Peters is head of ihe CTNS's 
Human Genome Project research 
team, which comprises geneticists, 
theologians, and ethicists. One of the 
most troublesome issues his team has 
had to tackle, he says, is that "DNA 
has already acquired a sort of tacit 
sacraiity in our culture." He points to 
the fact that Jeremy Rifkin, the tireless 
advocate against germ-line genetic en- 
gineering, launched a petition which 
declared that human DNA ought not to 
be tampered with on principle. Al- 
though Rifkin himself has no particular 
commitment to religion, he convinced a 
large number oi church leaders to sign 
his petition. He was able to tap into a 
deep well of religious sentiment which 
has come to surround the famous spi- 
ral molecule — the feeling that, as Pe- 
ters puts it, "we are violating the sacred 
when we get in there with our wrenches 
and screwdrivers." 

But, Peters continues, "You can 
raise the question; Who says DNA 
ought to be sacred? Where does that 
come from? We would like to be able to 
say to religious leaders: What in your 

theology can you use to support your 
position?" For himself, Peters says "as I 
look at ihe Hebrew scriptures and the 
New Testament, I don't see any basis 
for arbitrarily taking DNA and saying 
this is where heaven and earth meet. It 
just isn't in there. But for some reason 
that's where it seems to .fall. For theolo- 
gians it is essentially an old question;- 
How does God relate to the world? In 
this case, does God relate to the world 
through DNA?" There are no easy an- 
swers, and Peters is the last to suggest 
there might be. Indeed, he says, his 
team has been working on such ques- 
tions for three years now and they are 
really just beginning to understand ihe 
full scope of the problem — let alone 
having any solutions. 

Another thorny issue the CTNS-HGP 
team has come up against is the prob- 
lem of genetic determinism. As re- 
searchers have pinpointed increasing 
numbers of specific genes — for 
Alzheimer's disease, cystic fibrosis, 
colon cancer, and so forth— there has 
been a growing feeling in many quar- 
ters that human beings are nothing 
more than biological machines pro- 
grammed by our DNA. That view is be- 
coming especially prevalent now that 
some scientists are also starting io talk 
about genes for behavioral traits such 

as aggression and alcoholism. From a 
theological perspective; genetic deter- 
minism is untenable because it leaves 
no room for free will and therefore un- 
dermines the very foundation of ethical 
behavior. If we are merely machines 
programmed by our genes, then there 
is no such thing as genuine human 
freedom, and we cannot be held ac- 
countable for our actions in the eyes of 
God — or, for that matter, by the state. 

Traditionally, genetic determinists 
have been opposed by those who 
argue that the environment also plays a 
role and that living beings are a prod- 
uct of nurture as well as nature. Yet Pe- 
ters says his team has become 
"dissatisfied with this two-term ap- 
proach" and that some of them are 
starting to suggest "there must be 
three parts to this: your genes, your en- 
vironment, and finally, your self." After 
all, "it is the self which makes deci- 
sions," be it the decision to get up 
every morning and run five miles or to 
murder your mother. "But where does 
this self come from? Is it merely a prod- 
uci of genes and environment? It 
doesn't look like it. That's where we feel 
we're going to have to work in order to 
understand real freedom rather than 
just indeterminacy." 

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will, is one which Peters sees as crucial 
not just for the religiously minded, but 
for society at large. If we come to re- 
gard ourselves as entirely programmed 
by our DNA, then anyone could walk 
into a courtroom and plead innocence 
on the grounds that their genes com- 
pelled them to commit the crime. In 
fact, Russell tells me later, that is al- 
ready beginning to happen. The ques- 
tion of biological determinism raises 
the whole question of human responsi- 
bility; When, how, and why can people 
be held accountable for their actions? 
Peters points out that this is an issue 
which theologians are uniquely quali- 
fied to help us grapple with "because 
human freedom has been a major topic 
for us for 1 ,500 years. We have thought 
quite a lot about this." 

Nonetheless, dealing with such ques- 
tions in the light of the new genetics is 
no piece of cake. With a laugh that 
sounds like the first rumblings of a vol- 
cano, Peters tells me his team has 
"forced David Cole, [their molecular bi- 
ologist], to look at DNA and tell us 
where the genetic bases for human 
freedom is." They want him to look at 
rates of genetic mutation and the like 
and "tell us where in all the science 
there is room for free will." The purpose 
is not necessarily to come up with con- 

106 OMNI 

Crete answers, a task Peters acknowl- 
edges as probably impossible, but to 
begin to explore seriously this crucial 
boundary beTweer sc erce and religion. 
With the geneiic revolution already upon 
us, theologians must start somewhere. 
If getting theologians to take sci- 
ence seriously is one-half of the equa- 
tion, what about getting scientists to 
take religion seriously? In many ways 
this is an even harder task, for as 
Nancey Murphy notes, we live in an 
age which has "very positive attitudes 
toward science and very negative atti- 
tudes toward religion— especially in the 
academic world." Yet like all the people 
I spoke to, Murphy believes that times 
are changing and that both the general 
public and the academic community 
are becoming more open to religion. 
As anecdotal evidence, she tells me 
that a year and a half ago she was in- 
vited to sit on a panel at the University 
of California at Berke.ey with Australian 
physicists Paul Davies and Roger Pen- 
rose to discuss the interaction of sci- 
ence and religion. Twenty years ago 
when she was a doctoral student at 
that very institution, Murphy says such" 
an event would never have taken 
place. In the Seventies, the prevailing 
attitude toward conventional. religion 
was disdain, but now two thousand 

people turned up to listen. 

Similarly, at last year's meeting of 
the American Association for the Ad- 
vancement of Science (AAAS), there 
were several sessions devoted to sci- 
ence and religion. Again they were 
packed out. The sessions were so pop- 
ular it is rumored some scientists were 
annoyed and voiced the opinion be- 
hind the scenes that this was unsuit- 
able material for the AAAS. But not all 
scientists feel that way. Both Charles 
Townes and William Stoeger told me 
they have seen a much-increased in- 
terest about religion from their scientific 
colleagues in recent years. Stoeger 
says that those who are publicly com- 
mitted to their faith are finding that they 
"can be a theological resource within 
the scientific community." Surprisingly 
perhaps, he also expressed the view 
that "there are a fairly large number of 
scientists who are religious believers at 
some level." One of the principal roles 
he sees for the CTNS "is to be an invi- 
tation to them." 

In getting the scientific community 
to open up to religion, the question of 
credibility becomes paramount. David 
Cole suggests that a key factor is get- 
ting highly respected scientists'in- 
volved in the discussion. "They don't 
necessarily have to agree with theolo- 

gians," he says, "they just have to be 
willing to engage in serious dialogue." 
This is where people such as George 
Ellis and Charles Townes prove invalu- 
able to the cause. If a Nobel prize-win- 
ning scientist can be a devout Christ- 
ian, then religion can't be entirely anti- 
thetical to science. Nancey Murphy 
believes this is also where Davies and 
Penrose are making a difference. "The 
fact of their scientific legitimacy makes 
the theological questions that they 
raise seem both legitimate and interest- 
ing to other scientists." 

Ironically, some scientists willing to 
engage in theological issues, tread 
rather too heavily and too na'ively on 
theological territory. To suggest, as 
Hawking does, that physics might obvi- 
ate the need for God is not only to 
make invalid claims for science, it is 
also a misunderstanding of the role of 
God. The Christian deity has never 
been just a material creator, but always 
first and foremost a spiritual redeemer. 
As Stoeger and Ellis describe it, the 
unwarranted extension of physics into 
areas in which it was not designed to 
go "drags both serious scientific and 
serious theological research into disre- 
pute, and in particular damages the im- 
portant discussions which have recently 
begun between scientists and theolo- 
gians." Russell stresses the need fdr 
respect on both sides. The aim of a di- 
alogue between religion and science is 
not to replace either, but to learn how to 
have both forces co-existing in our lives. 

To date much of the CTNS's work 
has been highly academic, a fact Rus- 
sell says has been due to the initial 
need for the Center to establish its 
credibility. If one is going to build 
bridges between two sides of a chasm, 
it is essential that they be structurally 
sound. Having established their own 
"soundness," Russell hopes in looking 
to the future that the CTNS will be able 
to do a good deal more public out- 
reach — both to the religious and the 
scientific communities. Already they 
are receiving a growing number of re- 
quests for speakers to address reli- 
gious groups, colleges, and science 
departments, as well as community or- 
ganizations. Russell, for instance, is 
one of the speakers touring the country 
this fall on a lecture series sponsored 
by the John Templeton Foundation and 
the American Scientific Affiliation. An- 
other measure of success for CTNS is 
that the government is beginning to 
cast an eye their way. In a country 
which is trying to maintain world lead- 
ership in science at the same time that 
fundamentalists are gaining increasing 
political power, a group that is conver- 
sant with both science and religion 

clearly constitutes an invaluable re- 
source to decision-makers. 

Yet in spite of what would appear to 
be an obvious need in modern-day 
America, the CTNS, a nonprofit organi 
zation, fights a constant battle simply to 
Stay afloat. "If funding wasn't an issue," 
says Russell, "I could imagine a whole 
team devoted to the physical sciences 
and another to the biological sci- 
ences." Most importantly, he envisages 
that with further funding they could 
"branch off into other religions" and not 
just serve the Christian community, 
since people of every faith who live in 
the modern Western world face the 
dilemma of how to weave the two cul- 
tures together. And while the CTNS is 
the leading institution of its kind, it is 
importantly not the only one. 

The Chicago Center for Religion 
and Science traces its origins back to 
the early 1950s, making it one of the 
oldest institutions dedicated to promot- 
ing a- dialogue among scientists and 
theologians. This fall, for instance, the 
Crvcago- Cente 1 ' will sponsor a lecture 
series of nine scientists and five theolo- 
gians on the theme, "The Epic of Cre- 
ation: Scientific and Religious Perspec- 
tives on Origins." And there will be a 
new course for ministerial students on 
"Generics, Faith, and Ministry" taught 
in conjunction with representatives 
from four Chicago-area hospitals. 

The Center also houses the edi'oral 
offices of Zygon: Journal of Religion 
and Science, the only referred academ- 
ic journal of science and religion in the 
world. Zygon is co-published by the In- 
stitute on Religion in an Age of Science 
(IRAS), another Chicaqo-based group 
dating back to 1960. Among recent 
conference topics addressed by IRAS 
are: truth and reality in science and reli- 
gion, thermodynamics, entropy and 
value, and even gender bias in science 
and religion. 

While the Center of Theological In- 
quiry at Princeton does not specialize 
in the study of science and religion, it 
is, nevertheless, evidence of growing 
interest in "intelligent faith." In addition 
to addressing the crosscurrents with 
science and technology, the CTI also 
tackles political, social, economic and 
other cultural issues. 

It is the work of all of these organi- 
zations to begin to reconcile the critical 
divide between faith and facts. It is a 
resource which ought to be available 
not just to Christians, but to us all. DO 

Margaret Wcnhsiin'n kirincnming book. 
The Ascent of Mathematical Man, 
about the history oi physics and reli- 
gion, wiii be published in 1995 by Times 
Books, Random House. 





Review by Andrew Wheeler 

As you might have guessed 
from the evidence so far (and the 
word "Advertisement" up top), 
these aren't completely unbiased 
reviews. I must confess: ! do work 
for The Science Fiction Book Club. 
These reviews are our way of tell- 
ing you more about books we think 
you might like. But I did insist, when 
I agreed to write them, that I'd be 
honest, so I only review books that 
I personally read and liked. 

Maureen Birnbaum is a book 
you'd have trouble finding any- 
where else. It was published by 
Swan Press in trade paperback, 
but most stores probably won't 
stock it. That's a shame, because 
(as you might guess from the title) 
it's very funny. Both editions have 
some nice interior art (by different 
artists), but I think the SFBC art, 
"by the great Ken Kelly, is better. 
And there's more of it. 

But, of course, it's the story 
that you buy a book for, not the 
pictures (nice as they may be). 
Prep-schooler Maureen (don't call 
her Muffy) Birnbaum was some- 
how transported from a Vermont 
ski slope to the planet Mars, where 
she met the hunky Prince Van and 
learned she was almost as good 
with a sword as she was at shop- 
ping. The only problem was, after 
she teleported back to Earth (for 
desperately needed changes of 
clothes), she couldn't get back to 
Mars and Van. Oh, she could 
teleport herself other places, all 
right (the core of the hollow Earth, 
the moon and Sherwood Forest, 
among others), but she just 
couldn't get the hang of steering. 
The funniest thing about the book 
is Muffy's voice; I can't reproduce 
it here, but if you've ever heard an 
East Coast rich girl you'll know it 

It's available from The Science 
Fiction Book Club on pp. 58-59. 

VquT work 
terrifies Ths idea 

Tfe® Avtagt 



o-P each new 
creation ernbodymg 
a li"Pe o-f its own 
bogg/es my 


ture of the environment. 
Omni: How do you prove the existence 
of God? 

Tipler: I'm looking at the totality of real- 
ity. If you do a consistent physical 
analysis, God just falls out. He is there 
in an intrinsic, essential way, not just 
put in to cover our ignorance. Any cos- 
mology with unlimited progress will end 
in God. In Exodus, God says to Moses 
out of the burning bush that his name 
is "Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh" which in He- 
brew means "I will be what I will be." 
So the Bible itself can be interpreted 
that God is the ultimate future. My 
mathematical theory tells us that the ul- 
timate theory is "personal" — so it can 
be called "God" — because all person- 
alities acting together will drive the uni- 
verse into the ultimate future. Further- 
more, it will be these future persons 
who will resurrect us. 
Omni: What of your predictions, if 
proven, will back your theory? 
Tipler: One was the mass of the top 
quark, the particle finally found at the 
Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory 
this April. Omega predicts its mass at 185 
plus or minus 20 billion electron-volts. 

Ferrnilab measured the top qua.K's mass 
at 174 plus or minus 17. If my approxi- 
mations are right and a certain mecha-. 
nism near the f'nal stale sxisis, the reason 
the top quark has mass is to enable us 
to live foreverl I predicted this two years 
ago in a paper I sent to Physics! Re- 
view Letters, but it was rejected. One of 
the referees wrote it was. "clearly re- 
futed by experiment. The estimate from 
the CERN (European Center for Nuclear 
Research) inciicxes it is going So be 150," 
My book also predicts a lower value 
for the Hubble constant— a measure of 
the rate of expansion of the universe at 
the present time — and thus a greater 
Inferred age of the universe than many 
cosmologists expect. There's an incon- 
sistency in current measurements of 
the Hubble constant. My most interest- 
ing prediction is the mass of the Higgs 
boson, at 220 plus or minus 20 billion 
electron-volts. Every particle with mass 
got it from the Higgs boson, so it is the 
crucial particle in the standard model. 
But it's never been seen and many the- 
orists doubt it exists. The large hadron 
collider now under construction will 
find the Higgs early next century. 
Omni: Why are some scientists so 
apoplectic at your theory? 
Tipler: I am disturbing a political agree- 
ment between theologians and scien- 

tists ".o keep their "ields s 
Omni: How have fellow physicists re- 
acted to your book? 
Tipler: So far, mostly with silence. They 
don't want to come out and oppose a 
theory that's not obviously wrong, but is 
important if it's right.. To appreciate the 
full power of my theory, it's essentia: to 
be an expert in particle physics, global 
general relativity, and computer sci- 
ence. You don't need to know theology. 
Omni: Will the referees of the Physical 
Review Letters now fall down and beg 
your forgiveness? 

Tipler: Are you kidding? Does water 
flow uphill? People have short memo- 
ries for their mistakes. These referees 
are anonymous' and can make all sorts 
of mistakes and ignorant comments, 
and it's no skin off their noses. But the 
referees are particle physicists, and I 
am a relativist doing something inter- 
disciplinary. The big problem in mod- 
ern science is extreme specialization. If 
he's not in your field but an expert in 
another area, you haven't heard of him 
or don't take him seriously. 
Omni: But if you present an argument 
and people won't listen, isn't that poli- 
tics, not physics? 

Tipler: It worries me. I say in my book 
explicitly that physicists don't act that 
way. Now I am finding out they do.DQ 

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but they're indoctrinated to believe that 
it's wrong to question anything in the 
realm of religion. They seem to com- 
partmentalize science and religion in 
their brain, and if you dare to introduce 
the two worlds together for examination 
side by side, you will get hostility and 
rage and the conversation will be 
abruptly terminated." 

To Father Yanni, however, shouting 
down the devilish voice of skeptics like 
Mickell is the thing to do: He bounces 
out of his chair and leads the way back 
to the icon. "Here, look at this." He 
tears a tiny piece of brown paper from 
the back of the picture. It is saturated 
with oil. "Why would it be fraud? We 
don't ask people to pay money here. 
We tell people to go to their own 
church, don't come to ours. We are not 
merchants here. We give people the 
word of God." 

By now others, including a gaggle 
of teenage girls with backpacks and 
expensive sneakers, have joined the 
ladies in the pews. As I watch them 
drink in the Madonna, it strikes me that 
I am witnessing a divine version of the 
much-publicized "search for the inner 
child." In the presence of the icon, the 
ultimate mother, compassionate and 
all-seeing, these worshipers could be 
"reparenting" themselves, releasing 
feelings of abandonment and abuse. In 
her presence, they cannot feel isolated 
or worthless or alone. By visiting here 
every day and putting her picture up in 
every room at home, these believers 
may be creating their own miracles of 
psychological and physical healing 
and rebirth. 

"Why don't you write about the peo- 
ple," a man in Virginia said angrily. 
"That's the important thing." In a way, 
that angry parishioner is right. Whether 
the oil or the blood or the visions are 
miraculous or fraudulent, earthly or 
heavenly, the phenomenon is answer- 
ing a deep human need for an intimate 
contact with the divine. 

When Jung studied the phenome- 
non, for instance, he theorized that 
such collective visions were created 
when human fears or fantasies were 
projected from the unconscious in a 
powerfully concrete symbolic form. 
Jung believed that the visionaries 
themselves were often those least in 
touch with the contents of their uncon- 
scious, the least accepting of their 
deeper longings and fears. This may 
explain why, traditionally, so many of 
the Marian visionaries have been trou- 
bled, vulnerable peasant girls seeking 
no OMNI 

refuge in a divine mother. 

But the same theory may also ex- 
plain the emergence of modern-day vi- 
sionaries: middle-class Americans who 
cannot reconcile the worldly, skeptical, 
scientific, conscious parts of their 
minds with their deeply emotional reli- 
gious longings and fears. With no other 
outlet for the ecstatic or apocalyptic- 
fantasies in their unconscious — fan- 
tasies shared by the whole commu- 
nity — symbolic projections erupt. 

This less-than-holy nature of the 
Marian vision is a notion with which 
many devoted priests agree, "Person- 
ally you couldn't get me to walk across 
the street to see a weeping statue. I'm 
also not very impressed by some of the 
stigmatics around," opines Father 
Benedict Groeschel, director of the Of- 
fice of Spiritual Development for the 
Archdiocese of New York and the au- 
thor of A Still, Small Voice (Ignatius), 
the guide used by the bishop-ap- 
pointed commission that investigated 
the apparition in Marlboro. 

"One must remember that interest in 
this kind of thing relates to humble peo- 
ple's religion," Father Groeschel states. 
"We have lo have respect for the reli- 
gion of the ordinary, humble person 
who, in a naive way, seeks to have his 
faith affirmed through tangible phe- 
nomena. Many times people who are 
oppressed think of apocalyptic possi- 
bilities because they are better than the 
world in which they live. People must 
try to put aside this childlike spirituality. 
The great Christian mystics, for in- 
stance, were most concerned with per- 
sonal religious experience, prayer, and 
the well-being of others. They were sej- 
dom impressed by this rather crude in- 
volvement in reports of extraordinary 
phenomena. Though some reports of 
miraculous phenomena are very im- 
pressive, they do not qualify for the 
highest level of spirituality." 

Despite their seeming sophistica- 
tion, adherents to this "simple people's" 
faith are decidedly middle class these 
days it seems, and scattered across 
the landscape of Suburbia, U.S.A. In 
this endless outpost of civilization as 
we know it, there's a collective longing 
for spirituality, and a sense that the old 
authorities are breaking down. 

"I think there's a general disillusion 
ment with institutions these days," said 
Sandra Zimdars-Swartz. "People are 
disillusioned with everything from the 
scientific establishment to the Roman 
Catholic Church. In times like these, 
people tend to seek reassurance. 
That's what seems to be happening at 
these apparition sites. And yes, people 
have a tendency to emphasize these 
experiences. "DO 


Outwardly it might appear that this 
sort of negative reaction to the UFO 
phenomenon represents a Rind of resur- 
gent Yankee individualism that seems 
at odds with the religious unity incorpo- 
rated in more positive versions. However, 
there is an underlying need even in 
these conspiracies to connect the indi- 
vidual experience to a larger whole. 
The conspiracy theorist searches for the 
pattern which will make his experience 
of the world a coherent whole. The in- 
telligence officer, who maps out these 
secret networks, is the high priest of this 
peculiar antireligion. Salvation comes 
from knowledge of the conspiracy. In- 
deed, one often gets the sense that many 
conspiracy theorists actually hope that 
there is a secret government operating 
behind the scenes, holding together 
what often seems like an increasingly 
fractured and fragile social reality. 

What are we to make of this com- 
plex range of responses to the UFO? 
When he first addressed the phenome- 
non in the 1950s, Jung wrote that the 
presence of the UFO signaled funda- 
mental changes in our culture — the 
passing of one era and the beginning 
of another. This is indeed what is hap- 
pening. Science is beginning to grasp 
the " relational ity," 1 holism, and purpose- 
ful self-organizing complexity of the 
universe. New technologies enable us 
to tap into the self-organizing dynamics 
of matter and to end our earthbound in- 
fancy and go out into the cosmos. New 
means of transportation and communi- 
cation have drawn the planet together 
into one tightly knit, interdependent 
global civilization, (he powerful images 
of holism and integration which lie at 
the heart of the UFO phenomenon 
serve as a testament that we are be- 
coming real participants in the life of 
the cosmos. 

Ed Conroy, author of Report on 
Communion, says that the UFO is "a 
mirror of individual and social psychol- 
ogy . . . people tend to get the UFO 
experience they deserve." A careful 
look in this mirror can tell us a lot — the 
ways in which we are growing and be- 
coming whole, and the ways in which 
we are still fractured and even disinte- 
grating. What do you see in those 
wheels ot light over the high desert, 
spinning against the starry sky? A New 
Jerusalem? A pale horse which heralds 
apocalypse? Or the memory of very an- 
cient dreams clothed in a technological 
symbolism which speaks of new tools 
with which to make all our dreams 
come true?DQ 



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counter plan':; And wo ooth hoped we 
wouldn't encounter any other, larger or- 

After a while, we came to a series of 
volcanic cones. "They're not St. - 
Helen's, but I think they could do the. 
job," I mused. 

Lacey looked at me questioningly. 

"I was about an hour away from 
packing in toward St. Helen's when she 
blew," I said. "I was luckier than fifty or 
sixty others." 

"What were you thinking of?" said 

"I may be a paleo drone," I said, 
"but I've always been fascinated by 

"You sound like Rick." Lacey gig- 
gled. It was ihe first time she'd 
sounded like anything other than death 
since last night, "is that a Star Trek 

I shook my head. "The god Vulcan 
was the basis for the naming of volca- 
noes. I've always liked the innate 
drama of these direct pipelines be- 
tween the surface and the core." 

"So why isn't your personality like 
that?" said Lacey. 

I stared at her. "What are you talking 

"Sometimes I don't think there's any 
connection at all between your outer 
self and your core," said my lover. "I'd 
like you to be more like one of those." 
She gestured at Ihe cones. 

"That sounds pornographic," I said. 

Lacey laughed. "Have a little faith.", 

And then the ground shook. We 
held on to each other, but the temblor 
was brief. About a thousand feet above 
us, some of the dully glowing lava 
slopped out of the bowl and oozed 
down toward us. 

"I think it's time to get back to 
camp," I said. 

For a moment, Lacey resisted, star- 
ing up at the molten rock. "The fire that 
scours," she said. "That's Revelation." 

"Not in the version I read." I grinned. 
"At least you taught me one thing. Now 
I don't put an s"-on the end of that r 
word anymore." 

"I'd like to teach you more," She 
leaned up close. Her warmth seemed 
subsumed into that of the landscape. 

"We'll talk about it," I said. The 
ground again shook. 

Later that night, huddled in our thermal 
blankets around a container of canned 
heat, with shovels close to hand as po- 
tential weapons because the ammuni- 
tion hadn't turned up, we talked about 

many things. 

And I don't know how one subject 
led to another. 

"Did I show you the Presbyterian 
Church when you visited? " said Lacey. 

"You showed me lots of churches." 

"This one had the unicorn window." 

I shook my head. "I don't remem- 

"Used to have the window," said 
Lacey. "It happened when I was a 
leenager. People in Conyers thought 
the unicorns were occult." She shook 
her head. "Stupid. All the artist meant 
was to show a symbol of the Christ." 
She snuggled against me. "Community 
made ihe church take the window out. 
When the glass was put back, the uni- 
corns were stilt there, but with no 
horns. They'd been turned into plain 
old horses." 


"I cried for a long time for those uni- 
corns," said Lacey. 

"Didn't that say something to you 
about religious zealots?" 

"Just some, of us," she said, smiling 
gently. "Not all." 

I was quiet for a while. I thought 
about how a unicorn becomes a horse. 
"Why'didyou come on this fools' expe- 
dition?" I finally said. "Did you think I 
needed to be babysat?" 

She shook her head violently, "Old 
Mr. Harrison felt like he needed his per- 
sonal and corporate interests safe- 
guarded. He trusts me." Lacey 
hesitated, and then smiled. "And yes. I 
guess I did think maybe you needed 
someone to take care of you." The 
smile left. Silence lay there for a while. 
"There's another thing. I guess it is im- 
portant lo me to find out if men lived 
with the dinosaurs." 

"This isn't Alley Oop," I said. "Never 

"It has to do with faith," she said. 
"And I know we will pack out of here, 
and I still think we will find God's chil- 
dren, both human and reptile." 

I snorted 

Lacey moved closer to me, her nip- 
ples touching my chest. She touched 
one index finger to my lips, drew it 
back when I started to bite it. "But even 
if I was wrong," she said, "and I'm not. 
Even if I was . . ." She laughed and it 
was a completely happy, utterly sincere 
sound. "Now there exists what I was 
taught. Creationism is proved. Man 
does live with the dinosaurs." She 
kissed me again and again and again. 

I dreamed that night. I dreamed a 

nightmare and still remembered the 
scenario vividly when I awoke early in 
the Cretaceous dawn. 

Then I crawled naked out of the 

tumbled blankets. For a while I hun- 
kered there in the brownish half-light, 
as filthy and urge-driven as any pale- 
olithic savage. I stared at Lacey sleep- 
ing. I looked with sorrow at the 
sweetness of her face. 

I would miss her. And because I 
knew there was no other life than this 
one we both inhabited, I would miss 
her infinitely. 

And then I killed her. 

I killed her with the shovel, as 
quickly and mercifully as I could. I 
wished there were enough of the 
painkiller left to put her to sleep. But 
she made only a few sounds before 
she was quiet. Her breathing slowed, 
hesitated . . . stopped. When my lover 
was dead, I hurled the murder weapon 
as far from me as I could. 

I howled at the alien, empty sky, at 
my world without Lacey. All this be- 
cause of a dream? That nightmare now 
frayed when I concentrated on it. When 
I looked away with my mind, the im- 
ages came back. I couldn't bear to ig- 
nore them. If I did that, then I would not 
be able to live with the reality of what I 
had just done. 

The dream: 

The paleontologists, graduate stu- 
dents, day workers, all excavating the 
streambed. Skulls, femurs, ribs, al.l 
coming to light. The fossil remains, 
bone transmuted to stone by the al- 
chemist's minerals, jutting out of the 
clay. Here a corythosaurus, there a 
struthiomius. Plate-backs and tyrant 
kings, three-horned faces and arm rep- 
tiles, all dead 140,000 millennia. Di- 
nosaur footprints, filled in by time. 

And then the other remains. The 
human bones, intermixed in the same 
stratum, indisputably dating to the 
Jurassic extinction. 

It would not be solely the supermar- 
ket tabloids paying heed and dispatch- 
ing photographers. The greater effect 
would be elsewhere. 

And that I could not bear; not know- 
ing there was something I could do to 
redress the situation. 

I let my head tilt forward into my 
hands, my face feeling like the parch- 
ment of mummyskin. I cried. "Lacey," I 
said over and over again, "I loved you. 
I still love you. I will always love you." 

I'm not sure how long it took. I know it 
was more days than I had food and 
water from the twentieth century. I 
started refilling containers from the 
stream, and scavenging .meat from 
reptile carcasses. I ate and drank just 
enough to keep going, because I didn't 
know how much I was simultaneously 
poisoning myself. 

Most of my time was devoted to the 

endless treks to the volcanic cones. I 
rigged slings and sheets to carry as 
much as I could. I clambered up the 
side of the nearest cone, feeling the 
magma heat burning through my boot 
soles, fighting my way to the crater's 
edge and looking down into the closest 
equivalent to total destruction I could 
find. Then I would shove my load, 
piece by chunk by bit, over into the 
fiery pit. 

The bodies had gone first. Then the 
equipment. There might still be some of 
Chuck Furtado's smaller bones in the 
belly of some anonymous deinonychus 
somewhere, but that would have to be 
the risk I'd take. 

I disposed of everything I could 

It was all gone, burned and melted 
back into the anonymity from which it 
had come. 

And now it's time for the final dispo- 
sition. I throw the shovel into the crater. 
Then the journal I've kept — hopelessly, 
I know, but it was the concession I was 
willing to make to being a scientist. I 
see the pages flame into burning 
snowflakes before the book is halfway 
to the lava. I toss the canteen and the 
tarp I used to drag the odds and ends I 
discarded at the first. 

Now there is only one matter left. I 
stand poised on the brink of this un- 
named tunnel down to the heart of the 
world. I really oannot feel the heat I am 
too numb. 

The last picture in my mind is that of 
Lacey. And of the symbol she wore 
around her neck. 

I think about her love, and mine. 
That's all. , 

As I pitch forward and begin the 
long drop into the final fire that scours, 
.into what I expect will be nothingness, 
it occurs to me that I am watching all I 
will know, or ever believe, of hell. CXI 

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rection only, cause precedes effect, 
and our given subjective reality cannot 
change that. And yet we are also part 
of the universe, and our efforts of un- 
derstanding must increasingly take that 
fact into account. 

Our bodies are clocks, set by evolu- 
tionary circumstances to a certain bio- 
logical rhythm. We live in a vastly 
bigger clock, the universe, which is 
running down toward disorder and heat 
death at a vastly slower rate than our 
body clock. Conceivably, the universe- 
clock may be rewound after the big 
collapse. The infall of matter after the 
universe has reached its greatest ex- 
tent and gravity pulls it back may be 
the rewinding process by which en- 
tropy is defeated, at least for another 
cycle. Or the universe may expand for- 
ever, growing colder and slower, never 
to be rewound. 

which we have seen is conditioned by 
an entire museum of past speculations. 
The constraints of general relativity, 
quantum theory, and wave mechanics 
compel us to reject the containerlike 
character of absolute space and time, 
and say that time cannot be abstracted 
from physical events, that in fact it is 
profoundly a part of an expanding- 
space-time, and that time apart from 
that space-time may be either mean- 
ingless or beyond our horizon of under- 
standing. In a universe where nothing 
is at rest, motion and the perception of 
causal order (cause precedes effect) 
may be said, fancifully, to create the 
experience of time for observers as a 
piece of iron generates a flow of elec- 
tricity when it cuts through a magnetic 
field. We can only know time's aspects, 
but not time itself, which is a concep- 
tual illusion; only the specific aspects 
are real. Absolute, eternal, and infinite 
space and time may exist; they are not 
logical impossibilities; but on physical 
grounds, this is not what experimental 

What we call time began with 
the expansion of our universe. 
The time before that was a dif- 
ferent kind of time; what 
comes after our universe will 
be a different kind of time. 
Somewhere, there may be an 
eternity that our intuition tells 
us must be real in order to 
support the different kinds of 
time. This kind of time must al- 
ways be there. The alternative 
is to imagine a time when 
there was absolutely nothing, 
no time, or space, or matter; and that 
seems impossible for us to do, both 
logically and psychologically. To avoid 
this we imagine a necessarily existing 
eternity of 'some sort, requiring no be- 
ginning or end, though a lot may 
change within it. In Plato's view, time 
comes into being through our incapac- 
ity to grasp everything at once. Suc- 
cession and change "are the moving, 
and imperfect, image of eternity." Time 
is a relationship that we have with the 
universe; or more accurately, we are 
one of the clocks, measuring one kind 
of time. Animals and aliens may mea- 
sure it differently. We may even be able 
to change our way of marking time one 
day, and open up new realms of expe- 
rience, in which a day today will be a 
million years. 

But if we stick to general relativity, 
quantum theory, and wave mechanics, 
we can give answers about the nature 
of time that are restricted to physical 
theory, experiment, and plausibly de- 
scriptive mathematics, even though 
they may not satisfy naive intuition, 

114 OMNI 






it starts to when it stops — that's time, 
created by the movement of the car 
through space, even though we used 
the word when, the time-term, which 
means we assumed time as we tried 
to describe how time is_generated. 
What happens between stopping and 
starting is time. Time comes into being 
whenever a clock is started . . . 

What the above illustrates, in strenu- 
ous fashion, is that time, like space and 
gravity, must be expressed as part of a 
relationship whose terms cannot be 
defined independently of the relation- 
ship. Time is not understandable as a 
separate entity. It is a quality that 
emerges when we have the initial con- 
ditions of our universe. 

A quality? But what is it? A term in a 
set of equations? That's the only time 
we can know; anything else is specula- 
tion and imagining. What of time out- 
side the conditions of our space-time? 
There may not be any, and this might 
be all there is. Or . . . absolute time 
reigns there forever, in an absolute, infi- 
nite-superspace, giving our 
time its supporting back- 
ground, and there is noth- 
ing outside of that reality. 

science uncovers. 

We live in a vast spherical, or per- 
haps toroidal space-time machine, 
which generates in our minds a sense 
of space and passing time. Our bodies 
are complex patterns of space-time, 
according to Rudy Rucker, and are in 
fact time machines, retaining aspects 
of the past and guessing at the future. 
The superiority of today's science, with 
its experimental and mathematical 
methods, over the colorful speculations 
of the past is obvious from this ex- 
change on the television program 
Northern Exposure: 

"Some think time is a wheel, turning 

"Some think time is a river." 
"I think time is just time . . ." 
Common sense and intuition are de- 
feated. The first two statements are col- 
orful; the third is without hope. More 
formidable tools are required. 

Let's try again. Imagine a small 
wind-up toy car at absolute rest. Some- 
one winds it up. It runs a distance and 
stops. The distance it runs, from when 

Science, when it runs up 
against infinities, seeks to 
eliminate them, because a 
proliferation of entities is 
the enemy of explanation. 
A spatial and temporal in- 
finity is simply beyond all 
reason. Imagination leads 
us deeper into wonder, 
sometimes productively, 
and sometimes into delicious, intri- 
guing confusions. Metaphors and simi- 
les lie at the basis of all language, and 
may be thought of as qualitative equa- 
tions, written inside a vast system. 
Crude and evocative they are, from a 
mathematical view. 

Mathematical equations isolate un- 
known quantities and make them work 
in a relationship with better defined 
terms that we do know. They can ex- 
press dynamic, observed relationships, 
but they don't tell us what the terms 
are, at bottom, except what they do in 
the relationship. We learn the number 
value of an unknown, but not what it is 
in itself. The answer is always in terms 
of something else. "Time in itself 
is . . ." is not a computable sentence, 
in this view. 

The answer to a scientific investiga- 
tion tells us: This is the way it is, be- 
cause we have repeatedly observed 
and measured it, and made predictions 
that come true. From many imaginative 
and speculative possibilities we have 
found ones that hold in our experience 


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(an experiment being a form of organ- 
ized experience). In our universe, time 
is pari of the causal order of events — 
and that's what time is. as (ar as we 
can say, events following one another 
in a sequence. Our clocks may seem 
arbitrary, but every kind of clock we 
have devised seems to measure the 
same time, and their imperfections in 
fact point to what the. true measure 
should be, allowing us to make correc- 
tions. Whatever kind of clock-time 
scale we use, Galileo's inclined plane 
experiments will come out the same. 
Our clocks are limited by the fact that 
we are inside nature and cannot make 
transcendent observations. Clocks are 
part of the systems they attempt to 
measure, and they do so with relative 
objectivity; despite being a convention, 
they are genuine time scales. Tran- 
scendent questions fail to produce 
specific or useful answers, which is not 
the case with the experimental-mathe- 
matical "in terms of" method of scien- 
lific description. 

We can find this same "in terms of" 
method in every aspect of our lives. In 
an equation or a love affair, the specific 
context generates all significance. 
When we ask transcendent questions, 
of a eosmological or ideological kind, 
we feel that they don't fit in with our ex- 

perience. In science, the richness of 
specific terms derived from observa- 
tion, measurement, and experiment, as 
well as from what may seem to be arbi- 
trary definition, gives us better equa- 
tions to manipulate, from which we can 
make better predictions to test; and 
when these seem to be vindicated, the 
more contextual knowledge we accu- 
mulate. Pull on a thread and a whole 
arm of the suit may unravel. This is a 
limitation of living inside a system, and 
lacking the luxury of an unconditional 

One is led to suspect that there is 
nothing to answer in a transcendent 
question such" as "Why is there any- 
thing?" or "What is there outside the 
universe?" Time and gravity are de- 
scribed in a context, and there is noth- 
ing beyond it. We must not expect an 
answer that will tear back the uni- 
verse's stage set and reveal the works 
behind the pretty scenery, so that we 
can say, once and for all, "So that's 
what it was all along! How curiousl I 
would never have thought it!" I wonder 
whether we would be satisfied if faced 
with such a revelation, and it was 
something specific and disappointing, 
putting an end to all further questing 
and curiosity. 

The best introductory insight I know 

into the nature of time comes from 
Hans Reichenbach's The Philosophy of 
Space and Time: ". . . time is more 
fundamental than space, the topologi- 
cal and metrical relations of which can 
be completely reduced to observations 
of time. We shall finally recognize that 
time order represents the prototype of 
causal propagation and thus discover 
space-time as the schema of causal 
connection." He goes on to say that the 
most general assertion about space- 
time is that "at all times there exists a 
space-time coordinate system" which 
distinguishes lirn&like and spacelike di- 
rections, and that this is "accomplished 
by the world-lines of light. While it is 
true that science abstracts from emo- 
tional content in order to proceed to 
logical analysis ... it is also true that 
science opens up new possibilities, 
which some day might acquaint us with 
emotions never experienced before." 

"And yet what can there be," we 
continue to ask perversely, "beyond the 
quantum mechanical wave function 
that may someday be written down to 
describe a multiverse in which the 
electron takes every possible path?" 
Newton's laboratory table, perhaps, on 
which our multiverse sits enclosed in a 
crystalline sphere, dreaming that it is 
everything .DO 

"On the other hand, I think a simple hint of hope is more hellish- " 



that the one caused the other, that sun- 
light somehow picked up the image on 
the back of the mirror and cast it on the 
wall? If so, it worked far better than 
they could have dreamed, beguiling 
observers and even scientists for more 
than 2,000 years. 

SIXTEEN. Mathematician Monte 
Zerger writes to assure me that Omni'a 
anniversary this month is numerologi- 
cally significant because 16 is a num- 
ber of power. It's the first fourth power, 
and the first number to be a power in 
two different ways— 2 4 and 4 2 . Sixteen 
is the only number that can be written 
as a b and b 3 where a and b are differ- 
ent. In addition, a 4 x 4 square has an 
area and a perimeter of 16; it's the only 
square in which the two numbers are 
the same. 

In power sports, 16 pounds is the 
minimum weight for the men's shot put 
and hammer, and it's the maximum 
weight for a bowling ball. Each pound 
is further subdivided into 16 ounces. In 
the competitive battles of chess and 
checkers, each player starts the game 
with 16 pieces. 

The center of power in the United 
States is at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,' 
the address of the White House. The 
house number begins with 16, and the 
■ street begins with P, the 16th letter of 
the alphabet. Truncate one zero from 
1600 to get 160, then another to get 
16. Add these three numbers together 
to see the numerological significance 
for this country. 

Perhaps the two greatest president 
were Abraham Lincoln, the 16th, and 
Franklin D. Roosevelt, the 32nd (twice 
16). FDR, first elected to the office in 
1932, was chosen by the people to 
serve 1 6 years (four terms). 

Musically, there have been "Sixteen 
Candles," "You're Sixteen," and "Sweet 
Little Sixteen." "Sixteen Tons" was a hit 
for "Tennessee" Ernie Ford, and Ten- 
nessee is the 16th state. 

There are 16 member nations in the 
powerful North Atlantic Treaty Organi- 
zation (NATO), humans have 16 teeth 
in each jaw, and builders traditionally 
leave 16 inches between studs in the 
wall of a house. 

Zerger says his hexadecimal devo- 
tion comes naturally. At Adams Stale 
College in Alamosa, Colorado, he 
teaches and has his office in a 16- 
sided building (how many of those are 
there?), right off Highway 160. Even his 
office number — #136 — pays respect to 
the number 16: It's the sum of the num- 
bers from 1 to 16.00 

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WHY is man here and what is 
expected of him WHY was the 
universe created and how • 
Earth is only the third planet in 
the entire universe to whose 
inhabitants the Creator Himself 
reveals the purpose and sense 
ol creation and what He expects 
of intelligent beings 


alters a ttmugnt-nroi/akliw 

commentary en the universe ami 

man's reason tor being 

fUEiru FFonn onnrui books 

Omni Visior 
nine reprinted stories from Omni 
magazine plus a new story 
from Joyce Carol Dates. 

McAllister, J.R. Dunn, Howard 

Waldrop, William S. Burroughs, 

Harvey Jacobs, James P. Blaylock, 

Octavia E. Butlet, Marc Laidlaw, 

and Michael Swanwick. 

Omni Visions Two includes 

QnnruisMisioNs r 

Omni magazine from 19B5 to '988 

Some of the authors with : 

stories in this volume are Robert 

Silverberg, Barry N. Malzberg. 

...Another fine collection." Frederik Pohl, and 

— SF Chronicle Dan Simmons. 


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Stuttering and Your Child: 
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wire dangling from their bodies. Way to 
go! Nowadays it seems like most peo- 
ple perish more messily, by taking a 
bullet in the belly and falling off a plat- 
form or high balcony in a warehouse; if 
driving a car, they either explode in a 
fireball or crash through a plate-glass 

Of course, they aren't given much of 
a chance to prepare. In less violent 
times — and fiction — many of the char- 
acters had enough advance notice to 
compose themselves before starting to 

There were several popular ap- 
proaches to the theme, in print and on 
screen. One was the "Now I can really 
appreciate" reaction, knowing that one 
was seeing or doing something for the 
last time ever. Then there was "If only I 
could go back and tell him/her/it how 
sorry I am." But perhaps the most pop- 
ular was the "One last time" 

theme, in which blackface I 

vaudeville performers sang 
about seeing their dear old 
Mammy down in Virginny 
while secretly yearning to visit 
their dear old bank account 
over in Switzerland. 

But never mind. Vaudeville 
is dead, and I soon will be, s 
and doing shtik about Swiss 
banks doesn't help me when 
I'm frightened. Of feeling pain, 
and of not feeling anything at I ■■''■' 
all. Of what I know and of 
what I don't know. 

One would think that after a long 
lifetime, I'd at least have learned a little 
something to pass on to future genera- 
tions, a little counsel, advice, or just 
plain common sense. 

But all I've learned is that sense isn't 
necessarily a common commodity. And 
experience has taught me only what it 
teaches everyone in time; lend and you 
lose a friend; today's confidant be- 
comes your enemy tomorrow because 
you know too much; when it happens 
to somebody else it's comedy, but 
when it happens to you it's tragedy. 

A few years ago I put down some of 
what I know in an autobiography. But 
Once Around the Bloch was not pri- 
marily intended to be an instruction man- 
ual. Writing my autobiography was fun. 
Living it was not -always that entertaining. 

Actually, I was writing in self de- 
fense. As a longtime fantasy writer I 
was aware of my eminent colleagues in 
the field, and while I couldn't compare 
my work to that of an Edgar Allan Poe 
or an H. P. Lovecraft, I did share one 

thing with them in common — a vulnera- 
bility to the biographers who could 
come up with their own version of a 
life-story after its subject was no longer 
around to dispute what was said. I pre- 
ferred to tell the truth as I saw it, rather 
than be Griswolded like Poe or De- 
Camped like Lovecraft. 

At the time I naturally had no way of 
knowing that there'd be few other op- 
portunities left for me to add to what I'd 
written, so there was a lot I omitted. I 
didn't have much to say about per- 
sonal or political beliefs and convic- 
tions, and after what's happened to me 
now, this seems probably like the last 
chance I may have to express those 

Funny thing is, at the moment these 
things no longer seem all that impor- 
tant. Practically all I can offer by way of 
philosophy is that I think human beings 
are wonderful on the individual level; 
it's when they act as a group that the 
mob becomes a monster. As to per- 
sonal attitude, I'm an elitist; the Found- 







ing Fathers may have, sincerely be- 
lieved that all men are created equal, 
but apparently none of them bothered 
reading the New England Journal of 
Medicine to find out about genes. 

I don't think I suffer from delusions 
of grandeur about my own status. All 
my career has been spent as an enter- 
tainer in the ranks of what is currently 
labeled "pop culture."" 

I can handle that, but as an elitist I 
refuse to equate my work with tagger 
graffiti, the designer-label art displayed 
on 50-pound bags of steer manure, or 
the noises emitted by Snoop Doggy Dog. 

Dealing with such trivia is scarcely a 
hot-button item with me, but putting 
such statements down on paper helps 
distract from my stomach-churning 
awareness that pain hurts more than 
anything, only so much sand can be fit- 
ted into an hourglass, and that some- 
where there's a toe-tag with my name 
on it. 

Reminds me of a story about an- 
other entertainer: master showman and 
egomaniac P. T. Barnum. During his 

final illness he told a reporter the thing 
he most keenly regretted about dying 
was that he'd not be around to read 
any of his obituaries. The reporter went 
to his boss, the editor of the New York 
Evening Sun, and the next day they 
arranged to run a big four-column spread 
about the old man. Barnum was so 
pleased when he saw it that he perked 
up and lived for several more weeks. 

Maybe that's why I'm writing this, 
hoping I can stick around long enough 
to get a reaction from the news. Or 
maybe it's because I've spent the last 
six decades writing for an audience 
and it seems natural to write one more 
time, if only to say goodbye. 

Once word gets around — once the 
cat is let' out of the body-bag — people 
will start calling to inquire how I am. 
Actually they won't all be all that curi- 
ous about me; what they'll really want 
to know is about a visitor called Death. 

Death will be coming to our house 

for an indefinite stay, but while he's 

there this unwelcome guest must be 

treated as a member of the 


And that's what will 
make the callers curious. 
What's it like, living with 
Death twenty-four hours a 
day? Does he make spe- 
cial demands on our atten- 
tion, interfere with house- 
hold routine, disturb my 
comfort, change the ways I 
eat or sleep? Do we worry 
about him constantly, keep 
him first and foremost in our 
thoughts night and day? 
Right now I can't give full answers to 
these questions but expect to be able 
to do so soon, Very soon. One thing is 
already clear — we don't look forward to 
having him around. And we'll be anx- 
ious for him to depart, except that 
when he leaves he won't go alone. 

He won't go alone, but he won't take 
all of me 'with him, either. A part will still 
remain behind, until paper crumbles, 
iiim dissolves, and memories fade. 

Who knows? By the time these 
things happen, you and I, somewhere 
or someplace, may meet again. Any- 
way, it's nice to think so. 
See you later. 
I hope.DO 

Robert Bloch is one of the true masters 
of horror and suspense fiction and film. 
In six remarkably productive decades 
he has written in virtually every genre 
and style. The most famous of his books 
is Psycho. The least of his books are bet- 
ter written and more carefully crafted 
than most of what fills our bestseller 
lists —Keith Ferrell, Editor 



A bronze basin spouts water and Omni turns Sweet 16 

By Scot Morris 

Last month I presented 
the curious "magic mirror," 
which casts an image 
of Buddha on the wall when 
the sun is reflected in it. 
Equally mysterious is the 
"spouting bowl" shown 
here (below, left). It's a re- 
cent reproduction of a 
"Fish Washbasin Fountain," 
a curiosity from the Ming 
Dynasty (1368-1644). The de- 
sign cast on the bottom 
and up the sides shows four 
spouting fish, raised in 
relief on the bronze bowl. 

air (below, right) — I've 
measured some over 20 

inches above the water's 
surface. The four antinodes, 
where the vibration is 
strongest, correspond to the 
four fish shown on the 
bowl, creating the impression 
that the fish are spouting 
water from their mouths just 
as they are in the picture. 

Joseph Needham, who first 
described these bowls in 
Science and Civilization in 
Crw7a(1962}, speculated 
that the spouting effect was 

Fill the tub with water, 
wet your hands, rub the han- 
dles slowly and rhythmi- 
cally, and soon the bowl be- 
gins to drone. With a little 
practice, you can get this up- 
side-down bell to reso- 
nate at its natural tone, just as 
you can gel a champagne 
glass to sing by rubbing a wet 
finger around the rim. 

As the bowl resonates, 
ripples form on the water's sur- 
face, concentrated at four 
points around the rim. Then 
the water begins to "boil" 
and splash droplets into the 

produced by the lines of 
spouting water in the design, 
which continue about 
halfway up the sides of the 
bowl. We now know he 
was tricked, like virtually eve- 
ryone else who first sees 
one of these, by the ingenious 
Chinese bronzemakers 
who first created these bowls. 
They crafted the basins 
so that each one has four 
"hot spots"— even if the 
bottom has no design. The 
fish serve as red herrings, 
bait for the false hypothesis 
that somehow an image 

can become reality. 

I got the bowl in the pho- 
tographs from James 
Dalgety, a puzzle collector in 
Somerset, England, who 
has experimented with simi- 
lar bowls from China for 
12 years. He says that, while 
most bowls spout at four 
points, some will resonate at 
six or eight points if you 
rub the handles harder and 
at different angles. 

"In trying to reproduce the 
effects," Dalgety says, "I 
found that an inverted alu- 

costs $470, postpaid, by in- 
ternational money order. 
He has larger and smaller 
sizes available, and he 
continues to sell magic mir- 
rors for $75. Contact: 
/Enigma Designs, Manmead, 
North Barrow, Yeovil, 
Somerset BA22 7LZ, England. 

I speculated last month 
about the secret of the magic 
mirror and mentioned that 
the consensus of every West- 
ern scientist who has 
examined it is that the design 
cast on the mirror's back 

minum wok lid worked 
best, though it's nothing like 
as spectacular as the 
bronze bowls." 

Dalgety has acquired 
the bowls mainly for interac- 
tive science centers in 
England, though he sold two 
to the Reuben H, Fleet 
Space Center in San Diego, 
where visitors line up to 
try out the "resonant bowls" 
from China. Dalgety will 
sell the Chinese bowls by mail 
order, but they are not 
cheap. The one shown, about 
16 inches in diameter, 

determines what image will 
reflect from the front. But 
in the mirror I showed here 
last month, the reflection 
is entirely different from the 
design on the back of the 
mirror. Is it possible the an- 
cient bronzemakers have 
fooled modern science with 
another deliberate trick, 
like the fish designed onto 
the bottom of the bronze 
bowl? Did they add a design 
to the mirror's back, iden- 
tical to the reflected image, 
precisely to lead observers 
to theorize— incorrectly —